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L.A. Dance Project review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘banal and sloppy’

Scene from Harbor Me by L.A. Dance Project at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Scene from Harbor Me by L.A. Dance Project at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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One might be forgiven for thinking that Benjamin Millepied has led a charmed life. The former New York City Ballet dancer-cum-choreographer struck gold with his work on the movie Black Swan, through which he acquired fame, success and a wife in the shape of Natalie Portman. It also allowed him to create his own dance company as a showcase for his own work and that of fellow choreographers.

Of the three pieces, two complete the ‘Gems’ trilogy Millepied has made as a tribute to George Balanchine’s three-part Jewels – both of which were inspired and sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels. But if Millepied believes himself to be Balanchine’s successor, he needs to get his head examined.

In spite of an agitated liveliness in the movement, neither of these pieces sings with originality. Hearts and Arrows flirts with high-school cheerleading as girls are tossed into the air to the repetitive surge of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No 3 (Mishima). Short, cinematic scenes and blackouts undermine any vestigial coherence.

The concluding work, On the Other Side (receiving its premiere here), is even worse. Forty-five minutes of unrelieved and charmless tedium coloured with all the subtlety of a child’s wax crayon scribble, it is a series of disconnected scenes involving skipping, jumping, posing and whirling to no discernible purpose. With few exceptions – group lifts and airborne propulsion from a partner’s thigh – Millepied’s steps are banal and the execution sloppy.

Sandwiched between the two is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s three-hander, Harbor Me, a dark and elliptical work of curling limbs and sloping gestures that promises more than it delivers. Not such a great night.

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The concluding parts of Benjamin Millepied's Gems trilogy lack lustre