If dance can be defined as living sculpture, the three-dimensional static art of the one and the choreographic architecture of the other are natural bedfellows.
Antony Gormley’s collaborations with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Hofesh Shechter are the most recent examples of a relationship that stretches back millennia. And Russell Maliphant’s attempt to define the essence of Auguste Rodin’s manifestly physical sculpture through movement was a work waiting to happen.
On a stage hung with white drapes and covered in rumpled sheets, like an enormous bed, three women and three men roll and tumble, sway and shift – sometimes enfolding themselves in the material and floating slowly across the stage, sometimes rolling pell-mell down the hillocks as if enjoying a bedroom romp.
The slow pace of the movement, with slow swings of arms and exquisite contortions, suggest elements of Japanese Butoh, combined with t’ai chi.
As the three women sit together swaying like flowers in a breeze or the men engage in a slow motion wrestling match, we are invited to study the movements of muscles, torsos and limbs in much the same way as Rodin studied his models.
Occasionally, we can spot a known sculpture in the flowing movement but Maliphant resists the temptation to create tableaux imitating the work, preferring to tease out the sensuousness of the subjects.
Dickson Mbi’s slow semi-classical body-popping delivers snapshots of sculpture while Thomasin Gulgec and Tommy Franzen roll and cavort in a myriad shapes, sometimes playful, sometimes agonising. Often it appears that the dancers are carving out the space around them to find their perfect alignment within it.
The second half, played on a harder edged set of ramps and blocks, is faster though no less fluid, illuminated by the golden pools of Michael Hulls’ lights in which The Burghers of Calais features prominently as the six weave in and out of each other.
Rodin’s appreciation of the female form is expressed with potent sensuality by dancer Jenny White, draped in nothing but a length of white material, performing what can only be described as a classical striptease. Wow.