10,000 Gestures review at Mayfield, Manchester – ‘intriguing’

10,000 Gestures at Mayfield, Manchester. Photo: Tristram Kenton 10,000 Gestures at Mayfield, Manchester. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Twenty-five dancers fill the large, temporary stage, a shiny silvery padded floor set amid the industrial columns of the abandoned warehouse in Manchester city centre. Their movements are violent, jerky spasms. There is every chance that they do indeed make 10,000 gestures over the hour-long course of the piece. At some points they are even audibly counting them.

The volume of the music – Mozart’s Requiem Mass played in its entirety – rises and falls. Yves Godin’s lighting design alters the space from antiseptic white to dark orange shadows and back again, before fading to black. Several times, the performers scream in chorus. When not jerking alone, the dancers coalesce into mass tableaux, at one point resembling the horrific, protracted torture garden scene in Pasolini’s Salo; at another point, something like a gallery’s worth of Caravaggios – lines of individual crucifixions and narcissuses.

Close to the end, the dancers even pile into the audience and clamber over us, in a sequence that appears to have been lifted directly from Dave St Pierre’s dance piece Un Peu De Tendresse, Bordel De Merde!. Indeed, it feels possible that all movement could be quotation; from other choreographies, from art, from life.

Ultimately, the collision between Mozart’s high Catholic kitsch, and what I took to be the ironic French postmodernism of the choreography, is an intriguing one. You could see all of human agony and ecstasy in 10,000 Gestures, or you could see an amused, detached commentary on the absurdity of even trying to.

Contemporary French choreography, set to Mozart’s Requiem Mass, conjures either the apocalypse or the academy