A single light on a hand, raised in the air. Otherwise, the stage is black. The hand slaps against wood. A single percussive beat. A second hand is raised aloft. A second beat. A third. A beat. The lights brighten fractionally. We see four performers, sat with their backs to us, each holding a cello. They beat out a percussive rhythm. The opening bars to Ravel’s Bolero.
And so starts Bolero-Extended, brought to Dance Base this Fringe by Seiko Dance Company from Denmark. This is an elegant, thrilling work that combines live music, percussive effects and cheeky but chilling choreography to incredible effect.
The work has been set to a deconstructed version of Bolero that starts as a rhythm, teases us with an eerie refrain, is plucked on the strings of a single cello, is playground chanted by the dancers, before building into a vaguely discordant tribute to the original melody, veering off into a shadow of the piece until it finally surges and swells into the familiar music. Cello after cello is trundled onto the stage as the piece progresses, creating a glorious bank of sound.
The eight dancers are dressed simply in black or white – and finally, both. Palle Granhøj‘s choreography is sinuous, flirtatious, expressive, defiant, performed with adroit aplomb by these brilliant dancers. What initially appears to be a story about the patriarchy suppressing women, deepens into a bigger story about individual expression and how we react when it’s contained. And maybe there’s also something in there about the beauty of being different but the peculiar comfort that derives from conforming with the crowd.
A versatile mobile set whisks on and off the stage in the early part of the piece and ultimately becomes a platform for the musicians as the piece builds to its final crescendo. This is a quirky, flirty, majestic work, executed with panache by the cellists, the dancers and the guy who spends the show trundling the boxes about (and deserves a round of applause of his own).