The small, determined and technically accomplished Yorke Dance Project has a reputation for programmes that mix new pieces with revivals of older works of modern dance history that might never be staged elsewhere. The centrepiece of this exceptional programme brings together the two strands in the form of a commission from Robert Cohan, 90 this month and a founding figure of British contemporary dance.
Backstage becomes stage: gadgets go, costumes come, and casual multiplicity gives way to a highly focused and stylistically unified quartet
Lingua Franca opens in a modern rehearsal studio where every dancer practises with some gadget or other: iPod, tablet, video player. Initially, the piece seems to be an offhand homage to the workmanlike yet transfixing beauty of dancers’ warm-ups and run-throughs. Backstage then becomes stage: gadgets go, costumes come, and casual multiplicity gives way to a highly focused and stylistically unified quartet – the common language of the title. It is a startling transformation, as well as a window on to the past: the quartet is derived from Cohan’s 1984 Agora, and you realise that today’s dancers don’t work in this sculptural, powerfully rhetorical style any more. Nor, I think, would they reach for the turbulent but contained religiosity of tone that echoes, even if it cannot quite match, the monumental edifices of Bach’s accompanying Chaconne.
The rest of the evening is a rerun of last year’s outstanding programme. It includes a revival of Cohan’s 1978 Canciones del Alma, another solemnly religious work in an older style, but this time far more introspective. Yolande Yorke-Edgell brings gravitas to this solo of planted tilts, carved twists and controlled falls. Her own Unfold to the Centre is mystical rather than religious, the excellent dancers appearing as super-beings caught in a matrix of shifting lights that suggest silicon circuitry or bubble-chamber trails. The dancers are exceptional, too, in Charlotte Edmonds’ No Strings Attached, an urgent, restless work of nervous lines and volatile interactions. Edmonds’ handling of group composition is highly accomplished – a rare choreographic quality and, considering she was 16 when she made this, astonishing.