Dance Writes Sampled review: a diverse and life-affirming show

Sadler’s Wells has launched Dance Writes, a new initiative giving Islington residents the opportunity to experience dance performances and gain new skills by writing about what they have seen. Part of our community engagement programme Get into Dance, the pilot scheme is designed to help participants convey their thoughts and feelings about a performance, and to offer them a chance to learn or improve their writing skills and deepen their engagement with dance.

Dance Writes member Joanna Greatwich was at the opening night of Sadler’s Wells Sampled in February. Here is what she thought…

A heady new world awaited you as you entered Sadler’s Wells’ building for its annual Sampled festival. Samba beats and drums, feathered headdresses wafting above. Dancing and smiles all around. The random nature of the mosh pit’s movements and noisy teenagers. And music warming us all, with a booming 70s’ club feel.

Each piece was introduced by a video clip, featuring interviews with the artists to help you better understand the work and its context.

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 grabbed the stage with stop motion, sheer elastic tension. The dancers moved with precise lightening muscle blurring pristine shapes, their strength and control like a speeded up silent movie, all gesture and style. Wir sagen uns Dunkles then changed pace, deftly weaving in short, lyrical phrases. Finally, a masterly male dancer summed it all up, with a surprising touch of sadness. A dazzling, brave performance.

Mass Effect’s cheeky, smoothly stitched moves won us over. BBC Young Dancers Jodelle Douglas and Harry Barnes shared their youthful perception with sharp, quirky ‘look at this’ body sequences. They melted across the floor with sass and humour, shifting the mood up.

Winner of BBC Young Dancer 2017 Nafisah Baba gave us an insight into her fascinating inner life, as she showed layers of potential and playfulness in her creation Inescapable.

In Kin, a duet by Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate Alexander Whitley, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Jenna Roberts curved sinewy gazelle limbs in flowing classical waves.

Jesús Carmona brought a pure flamenco blast of ‘duende’ (spirit) in sound and charismatic stage presence. He teased, sulked and stomped us all fully alive, from earth to sky.

An excerpt from Humanhood’s Zero   looked at gravity and the physical laws governing the universe through a spellbinding duet. The dancers played with imaginary molecular forces, spinning inside and around two bodies.

As a contrast, Zenaida Yanowsky shone in the high ballet purity of The Dying Swan, but I stopped short of tears.

Candoco’s pieces are often slow-burning  revelations. Dedicated to… was no exception. Its touching choreographic vocabulary and shapeshifting reminded me how contemporary dance is still evolving and broadening our view of how it is presented on stage.

Yeah Yellow’s barnstorming, assured and joyous Yeah Yellow Sunshine blended moves from a variety of hip hop disciplines, from popping to b-boying. It shook the theatre like pepper, with a sing along to ‘Let the Sunshine in’ and crackling moves one after the other. A fitting finale to a wonderful chocolate box of dance.