Evolving into the light

picture of dancers in sideways rain

Sideways Rain

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

INTERNATIONAL Dance Festival Birmingham continued by blending South America and Europe. Brazilian choreographer Guilherme Botelho's Geneva-based Alias performed one of his latest works Sideways Rain.

The hour long piece sees 16 dancers move in synchronised precision across the stage from left to right. And in doing so they evolve from crawling along the ground to running.

Many of the initial movements look awkward and uncomfortable as the dancers launch themselves slowly, moving on all fours across the stage, one after the other,

Gradually over the next hour the figures change, they roll, they turn, they fall and they rise until, by the end of the show they are standing and running. It is a kind of evolution of movement which reflects those drawings we all studied in school where humans gradually develop from animal to person.

This is underlined by the closing scenes. Once the dancers are on two legs they can walk and run across the stage. Carrying lengths of string with them, they create a cross-cross illusion in which the bodies and the bright light of the cord become confused.

Once the stage is partly obscured by so many lengths of string, the cast shed their clothes and continue to run at full tilt between the lines in a display of pure physical energy.

The performance depends on the strength, control and physical endurance of the cast. Much of the movement is painfully slow but at other times it breaks out into a fast pace. And they are no sooner off stage right than they are back on stage left. There seems to be no moment for them to pause and catch breath.

This is also the case for the audience. The motion is relentless and yet its sheer repetition has a power to hypnotise us so that we can simply sit back and watch.

The electronic music created by Murcof and Pablo Beltran Ruiz is perfectly paced to the dance and has a similar blend of languor and urgency.

Jean-Philippe Roy's strong lighting is an integral part of the action, highlighting movement and forcing the eye to certain places at certain times. In fact at moments its harsh light and the rapid movements of the dancers cause the actual bodies to blur into a whirl of white light so that you are losing track of what is body, what is movement and what is the spectre left behind.

Sideways Rain may not have pulled in the biggest crowds at the Hippodrome, a risky prospect for a launch event at the theatre, but it certainly gave those at the performance plenty to talk about.

Over the next four weeks the city will be packed with choreographers and companies from across the globe bringing a range of all forms of dance to venues and the streets. Many performances are free outdoor events aimed at all ages. For full details of the programme see www.idfb.co.uk To 30-04-14.

Diane Parkes 

29-04-14

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