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Scandale review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘lacks coherence’

Pierre Rigal's Scandale at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Pierre Rigal’s Scandale poses the question: is music or movement the mother of dance?

It’s the kind of question that resists an answer – it is unique to each choreographer. In this work, Rigal appears to lean towards music. A man, excessively draped in layers of elaborate, sequin-heavy clothing adopts the role of what can best be described, given his costume, as a musical sorcerer.

He collects a cacophony of sounds – breath, hums, a bee-like buzzing – from the dancers, which are then re-mixed and looped to form the soundtrack. As the sound intensifies, the pace picks up. The dancers begin to extract movement from each other, catching at phrases which, like the soundscape, loop and merge.

It’s an intriguing premise but the build-up is painfully slow – and there’s no climax. The idea is left hanging and the next moved on to, the surface barely scratched.

Given the strength and agility of these dancers’ bodies and the intricacy of the movements they can execute, the potential for a more varied and in-depth work certainly exists.

There are moments where that potential bursts briefly into existence. In one section a creepy selection of laughs is captured from each performer. While the dancers silently pulsate, their laughter is woven into a striking, if uncanny, accompaniment. Choreographically, it’s also one of the most inventive sections.

The dancers adopt a clumsy, uncontrolled attitude that forces them to grasp one another for support as they skip through complex footwork and shift seamlessly into freezes.

Scandale may be an abstract work but ultimately it lacks nuance. It comes across as a loosely structured exploration of ideas which fail to cohere.

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Intriguing piece featuring a group of skilled dancers that lacks structural coherence