Trois Grandes Fugues review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘illuminating’

Trois Grandes Fugues at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Bernard Stofleth Trois Grandes Fugues at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Bernard Stofleth
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Take three female choreographers and set them the challenge of interpreting the same piece of music in their own fashion. Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op 133 may not seem the most obvious choice for a work created by dance-makers of any gender but this exercise in ‘compare and contrast’ is illuminating in more ways than one.

Lucinda Childs goes for the classical approach and is the only one to use a set – an elaborate decorative screen that might represent the cage of classicism. The airy, ethereal grace of the slow circling lifts and softly pressured jumps is easy viewing but the steps are too literal; a translation more than an interpretation it follows the music without challenge or dialogue.

In Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s response two women and six men, dressed identically in black suits and white shirts, sway, swagger and bounce in a syncopated cocktail of contemporary and jazz dance. Cocked elbows, clenched fists and big smiles combine in a work that is funny, fluent and fast and properly illustrates the music’s moods. As jackets come off and shirts come untucked the piece becomes more elastic but never loses its internal dynamism.

The four female perfomers in Maguy Marin’s piece burst onto the stage in various shades of red. They could be teenagers out partying but the angled movements, the defensive gestures and the slumped attitudes of despair and exhaustion suggest women going through various crises. Hunched shoulders and self-slapping encourage further the idea of unacknowledged abuse yet there is something defiant in their refusal to go down entirely. They collapse and rise as if yanked up by the music itself. Even in its bleaker moments the sense of female indomitability is pervasive.

Trois Grandes Fugues is part of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival.

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Three choreographers respond to the same piece of music with intriguingly different results