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Robert Cohan at 90

A scene from Wilderness from Robert Cohan at 90, Place Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton A scene from Wilderness from Robert Cohan at 90, Place Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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It is hard to overstate the importance of Robert Cohan’s contribution to the British dance scene. This gala to celebrate the co-founder of London Contemporary Dance Theatre is no nostalgia trip, though. The works on show are by young dance makers inspired by his early work or revisions by his own hand.  Astonishingly, he even contributes a new solo, immaculately danced by Liam Riddick.

It’s difficult to do full justice to the depth and variety of the work here but outstanding moments include Tony Adigun’s Wilderness, which made impressive use of a huge cast, including children. Not just brought in to ‘dance cute’ they were woven into the fabric of the piece and display a focus and delivery well beyond their years. Guest artists Charlotte Landreau and Lloyd Knight from the Martha Graham Dance Company delivers an exquisite Adam and Eve duet from Cohan’s Forest to a soundtrack composed entirely of natural sounds. The closing solo, Sigh, shows off Richard Alston company dancer Liam Riddick in a soliloquy of pliant beauty. I also enjoyed the nouveau Bedlam mood of James Cousins’ Sometimes, even now in which a group of white garbed inmates ‘entertain’ a silent, anonymous crowd. And Yolande Yorke-Edgell brought enormous humanity to the solo Canciones del Alma which hasn’t been seen here since 1979.      

Cohan’s range of work is well represented and allows us to study aspects of his dance making. Solos are not isolated ego trips but duets with invisible partners, or the floor. Or the air. Often, his dancers appear to be studying themselves in the act of movement, at other times wrestling with gravity.

With tributes to the veteran dance writer Mary Clarke who died last week, this was a moving and uplifting celebration of contemporary dance and those who championed it from the start.

Date: March 26-27

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Verdict
A wonderful and illuminating celebration of the father of contemporary dance in the UK
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