Now you see them. Now you don’t. The extraordinary partnership between the master of slow-release dance energy Russell Maliphant and the sorcerer of light Michael Hulls has lasted for two decades. Of the four pieces in this celebratory evening only one, Spiral Pass, is new to the UK, having been made on Bayerisches Staatsballett last year and performed by members of the Munich company. It makes a spectacular opening to a dazzling evening.
For the deceptively simple solo for Maliphant’s wife, Dana Fouras, Hulls’ lighting creates a shadowplay for a character that is half priestess/half houri. In the outstanding Spiral Pass, the whorls of movement and dancing-on-ice centrifuges illustrate their alchemical combination of light and movement. The opening duet is a marvel of intricacy and poise as a girl winds herself around her partner, creating shapes like human origami. Sometimes there are hints of circus acrobatics as a girl is passed between four men as if through different dimensions. Sometimes, as in his 2003 piece Broken Fall (originally made for Sylvie Guillem, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt), Maliphant almost succumbs to sentimentality as he toys with lyrical, semi-classical steps.
But always, there is a sense of compression, of pressure-cooker physicality under masterly control that maintains the radiant fluidity that characterises his choreography, whether it is accompanied by stuttering electronica or classical music. It ends with a coup de theatre as Hulls’ rectangular panels of light in Piece No.43 create the illusion that the dancers are floating above the stage. Magic? No. Just a trick of the light.