Like all the works of Brazilian dancemaker Deborah Colker, Rota is gorgeous to look at. The women enter in bouncy silken frocks, the men are dapper in sheer shirts. Gringo Cardia’s bright set is a map of squiggles and dashes that spread across the floor. The opening choreography, too, is mere doodling. The dancers begin earnestly with classical arabesques and pirouettes, but pop the bubble with goofy mugging gestures. They’re only kidding. Then they turn into kids, fractious cheek-slapping games leading to tiny tantrums. Again, nothing serious. They regress still further, reappearing in coloured romper suits for an aerobic number that’s first joggy, then jumpy.
For all its visual appeal, the choreography is unremarkable, all display and no development. Colker is fired by physical imagery but doesn’t elaborate it into sustained composition. And her pick-and-mix soundtrack, ranging from rock to baroque, is ambient rather than integral.
Can you pretend to be a little boat?
But from about the halfway point, none of that matters. Rota begins to enchant with a blend of matter-of-factness and make believe that tugs at your inner child. Can you pretend to be a little boat? The dancers do, paddling as they shuffle along the floor. And there’s laugh-out-loud delight at the man who tries walking with two prone bodies as his cumbersome skis.
Now the show gets upwardly mobile. One woman space-walks at shoulder height across rungs formed by the other’s arms. They up-end into contortionist headstands, legs pedalling the air. The acrobatic circus finale sees the ensemble capering on a 22ft ferris wheel, like weights on a swaying pendulum, or frolicsome hamsters. A Viennese waltz invokes the lilting rhythms of romance as the dancers launch from the wheel, tracing giddy arcs of airborne pleasure as if they were flying down to Rio. The piece closes with the dancers hooked on to the spinning wheel, little carousel carriages of humanity. Roll up, roll up: for one evening only, life seems like a merry-go-round.