Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Russell Maliphant Company

A Sadler’s Wells London Production
presented by San Francisco Performances
Lam Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
October 14th, 2012

Russell Maliphant’s 2010 work, “AfterLight”, is a physical sonata of hypnotic visuals.  Within the exposition (a lengthy male solo), development (introduction of duos and trios) and recapitulation (the return to the single male dancer), fluidity reigned supreme. “AfterLight” is a stunning and complete exploration of how light and the manipulation of it becomes theatrically causal, affecting mood, movement and perception.  With last weekend’s engagement of the Russell Maliphant Company, San Francisco Performances has once again introduced an amazing single-choreographer led troupe to Bay Area audiences.

Thomasin Gülgeç’s opening solo was really quite something. The combination of light (designed by Michael Hulls) and Maliphant’s movement created such a strong and unusual visual effect, to the point where the light itself became an active performer.  Lit from an overhead spotlight, the choreography was centrifugal - twisting, turning, spiraling, unwinding - so much so that it looked like Gülgeç was positioned on a rotating disc.  Nijinsky-inspired arms were prevalent in the twenty-minute variation, reflected by his signature 5th position and moments where the arms wrapped around the head. Gülgeç captured fluidity and gracefulness throughout his whole solo whether walking, spinning or changing levels from standing to floorwork (which happened quite often).  He was absolutely exquisite in this role.  His back and spine are super flexible, perfectly matched with Maliphant’s choreography, though because of his upper body’s flexibility, his ribs were constantly popped to the point of hyper-extension.  This occasionally took away from an otherwise brilliant performance. 
Photo credit: Johan Persson

The two women in the cast (Silvina Cortés and Gemma Nixon) were introduced in the next section with a unison duet (which eventually morphed into a group sequence with all three performers, followed by a set of pas de deuxs).  This portion of “AfterLight” was performed behind a scrim with a scattered light pattern, giving a dream-like ambiance.  The choreography carried the same hypnotizing fluidity as was evident in Gülgeç’s solo, though the women had a slightly more difficult time maintaining the smooth, legato quality.  While most of the dance stayed at a uniform dynamic level, we did see a bit of change during this lengthy middle segment.  Cortés and Nixon broke into a set of frenetic chaîné turns, built a crescendo with punctuated, staccato motions and also executed some long leg extensions. 

“AfterLight’s” last scene took us back to the beginning of the work, as Gülgeç once again commanded the space.  Delicate flute music accompanied Maliphant’s choreography as the soloist moved in and out of the shadows.  In the final moments, Gülgeç took his place center stage, this time bathed in a strobe light effect and as the curtain fell, everything dissolved and disappeared together – the light, the mood and the dance.

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