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Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud: DFS review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘exhilarating and accessible’

Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud's DFS at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Herve Veronese
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Jamaican dancehall and Georgian polyphonic chanting – it seems like an odd pairing for a main stage production, but Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud’s DFS reveals the musical complexity of both forms in surprising and entertaining ways. They don’t always meld seamlessly, but the work is bolder and braver for it, if occasionally a little awkward.

The choreographic duo previously combined their interests in Kingston’s social dance scene and ancient melismatic singing for Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in 2015. DFS furthers the exploration with the help of three ballet dancers (who also sing a cappella, very admirably) and two dancehall experts (we learn via a video interlude that another dancer, Giddy, was unable to perform due to visa issues). Chaignaud appears, cycle courier style, in head-to-toe lycra and a woolly hat, sometimes en pointe, demonstrating a fine tenor voice as well as a way with the one-foot skank.

To the irresistible pound of ragga, the dancers combine bogles and bourrees, developpes and dutty whines, the plumb-line carriage of classicism with the slouch, swerve and loose-waisted waves of dancehall. Erika Miyauchi performs with a particularly mesmeric energy and attack.

When Jamaican dancers Craig Black Eagle and Damion BG Dancerz take to the stage, it’s possible to see how their speedy physical articulation of offbeats – limbs working in harmony and isolation – can parallel the contrapuntal lines of polyphony. The rarefied sonic world of medieval chanting isn’t so far from Kingston and its bouncy butterfly moves.

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Exhilarating and accessible exploration of Jamaican dancehall and polyphonic chanting