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Reckonings review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘promising new commissions’

Julie Cunningham and Steph McMann in m/y at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Sadler’s Wells celebrates the 20th anniversary of its transformation into a purpose-built dance house with a promising triple bill of new work by up-and-coming UK choreographers.

It’s a bold event that casts aside the pale, male and stale dancing shoes that so often dominate main stage choreographic commissions in favour of fresher voices. 

Botis Seva’s physical language is vital and arresting, stretching hip-hop into nebulous psychological terrain. In BLKDOG, based on journalist Sally Brampton’s memoir of depression, six grey-hooded dancers jolt and surge to hefty bass and a scrambled soundtrack amid ominous lighting.

They squat and scuttle on their haunches like motorised agents of misery, while their gasping breaths suggest the panting of the titular canine, a being that’s both companion and curse. Some of the woofing and recorded text is a little on the nose, and the piece could be shorter, but Seva’s onto something remarkable. 

So too is Alesandra Seutin, who blends the grounded angularity of contemporary dance with traditional African movement. Boy Breaking Glass, based on a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, is a study of frustration and marginalisation for seven dancers that culminates in a full-bodied articulation of communal joy, a burst of bright light and locomotion.

There’s less of the latter in Julie Cunningham’s m/y. Admirable in its attempt to transcend patriarchal structures, it’s a diffuse and austere piece that’s difficult to engage with. There are striking moments of ferocity and intimacy though, including a six-strong, casually spread-legged tableau that’s like a female reframing of the Origine du Monde.

As Sadler’s Wells hits 20, meet the emerging choreographers shaping its future


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Sadler’s celebrates its 20th anniversary with a trio of promising new choreographic commissions