Union Dance’s current slogan “union beyond diversity” still remains true to the inclusive vision with which the company was founded 21 years ago: to embrace different cultures and dance styles, to merge high culture with pop, and art with technology. Many artists in many different media have deployed such ideas to rich effect. But they don’t in themselves produce an interesting result, as this production, entitled Heaven on Earth, demonstrates.
Like a bland, new-age, world-music compilation, Sublime Element reduces diversity to a generic mystical mulch
The first half, choreographed by Tayeb Benamara and called Sublime Element, has one striking moment: an upended-frog pose with one dancer suspended mid-air from another’s legs, like an inverted animal idol. The rest comprises vaguely ritual gestures, the occasional Shiva pose, a bit of capoeira and an awful lot of slow t’ai chi swaying. The dynamic level is waftily mid-range, and there is a fatal lack of composition: the seven dancers are simply manouevred about the stage, executing their sequences. A film projection of a tree at sunset provides a picture-postcard backdrop. The score also serves as ambient background, touring through African chant, Indian melodies and spiritual songs, plus the odd bit of Steve Reich, running water and bird-tweeting. Like a bland, new-age, world-music compilation, Sublime Element reduces diversity to a generic mystical mulch. Even the dancers themselves look unconvinced.
The second half, Celestial Dawning, choreographed by Michael Joseph, at least has a little more pep. There is a galactic backdrop, and two huge orbs hang from the ceiling like alien moons, while the dancers jerk and tremble on the floor, as if breaking out of the earth. Later, trios of dancers flip and tumble over each other, mixing hip-hop with martial arts, to a sputtering beat. There are video-game face-offs, and space-age, android ambulations. But these promising sci-fi/horror intimations simply fizzle out, leaving the performers casting energetically but aimlessly about the stage, lost in space.