Company of Elders
Lilian Baylis Studio
Reviewed – 14th June 2019
“The strength and beauty of ageing are there, shining through the aching backs and wrinkles, luminous with a shared commitment to truth and dance”
This is not a usual dance show, there are no pyrotechnical leaps or astounding lifts, no point work or athleticism. What there is instead is the astonishing beauty of a group of humans in honest, truthful movement and communication, and it is rather wonderful.
Company of Elders is Sadler’s Wells’ resident over sixties company, founded over twenty years ago. All the dancers are at least sixty, and one lady on stage tonight was ninety years old. They are not professional dancers, and they have varying degrees of dance experience. Some only started dancing in their late sixties. What they all have is an openness and honesty of performance, and a willingness to share stories from their own lives. When someone is totally involved in their movement, really living the dance, the result is magnetic, and this evening felt like a lovely celebration of the beauty and spirit of older bodies and souls.
The first piece was Dare I Speak, choreographed by Alesandra Seutin, with costume by Emma Lyth and lighting design by Anthony Hateley. It is based on the short reign of Patrice Lumumba’s short period as prime minister of the Independent Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the way in which people can be elevated and destroyed by others in a second. The piece flows from Lumumba’s inspiring speech to his downfall as dancers transform from admirers into a frightening crowd. It works well for the company, allowing both group and individual movement to tell the story simply and strongly.
The second work was Natural 2019, a piece that demands courage from each dancer, as they share spoken stories of their lives and weave a sense of themselves with dance and sincerity. It is profoundly moving and great fun; not an easy mix to pull off. But they do it so well. A man speaks of his seven year old self, dancing in the living room with the curtains shut. A woman talks of her memories of Pakistan, and her lost language and fragmented heritage. Another woman tells of her titanium spine and other health issues. There is nostalgia and a sense of things lost, but this is no pity party.
The strength and beauty of ageing are there, shining through the aching backs and wrinkles, luminous with a shared commitment to truth and dance. There is sexuality and cheekiness; a huge sense of play and joy. This is a real company, not simply a group of individuals, and their care of each other shines through. Clara Andermatt’s choreography leaves room for the piece to breathe, and for improvisation. Carlos Ramos’ lighting, adapted by Anthony Hateley, provides a simple, effective backdrop to the stories. It is a powerful piece of work.
Company of Elders performed as part of the Elixir Extracts Festival, a three day programme dedicated to older artists aimed at celebrating lifelong creativity. The festival continues with other senior citizen dance groups from around the UK showcasing their work following an open call-out.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Ellie Kurttz
Company of Elders
Lilian Baylis Studio as part of Elixir Extracts Festival
Previously reviewed at this venue: