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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

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.

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

Production

Production
L.A. Dance Project
Venue
Sadler’s Wells
City
London
Starts
June 24, 2016
Ends
June 25, 2016
Press night
June 24, 2016
Composer
Philip Glass, Park Woojae Geomungo Extension
Choreographer
Benjamin Millepied, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Set
Fabiana Piccioli, Sander Loonen
Lighting
Roderick Murray, Lucy Carter, Fabiana Piccioli
Costume
Janie Taylor, Fabiana Piccioli, Alessandro Sartori
Technical
Liam Gillick, Mark Bradford (visual concept), Josh Johnson (lighting director)
Stage manager
Will Knapp
Cast includes
Stephanie Amurao, Anthony Bryant, Aaron Carr, Julia Eichten, Morgan Lugo, Nathan Makolandra, Robbie Moore, Rachelle Rafailedes, Laura Bachman, Lilja Ruriksdottir, Adrien Dantou
Producer
L.A. Dance Project, Sadler’s Wells
Running time
2hrs