Manchester Evening News


Henri Oguike Dance Company - Expression Lines
Robert Beale

The Lowry

14/ 3/2007

A CLEAR original in contemporary dance, Henri Oguike is gathering a rapidly growing reputation, and his company's visit to the Quays Theatre at the Lowry shows why.

There is enough energy and inventiveness here to power two of any other outfit, and evidence of a choreographer who is himself still growing and developing.

The show started with his latest piece, Little Red, danced to two Vivaldi violin concertos, in which the fast outer movements use a kind of freeze-frame technique of alternate movement and pose.

The hyperactivity of Vivaldi's writing is counterpointed by this continuous stop-start, and his symmetry by effective patterns using the six girls of the company. It's closely reflective of the music's structure, often changing with the switches from episode to ritornello (and vice versa) and sometimes even reflecting aspects of instrumentation (duo for duet, for instance).

But the striking thing is the realisation of the slow movements: the two men in the company figure not so much as dancers but as symbols, first as one rolls his way into the girls' world and out again, later as the other becomes a destructive interloper. It's strikingly unusual way of interpreting baroque slow movements.

Touching

Oguike himself danced Expression Lines, a solo to Ali Farka Toure's guitar music - except that it's really a duet for man and lights. It made a touching piece of movement out of the narcissism that such a concept implies.

Tiger Dancing, performed by the full company to music by Steve Martland, is great entertainment, putting into vivid practice Blake's dream of framing the tiger's "fearful symmetry". There's a law-of-the-jungle aspect to its relationships (quite apart from the opportunities to move on all-fours) and an remarkably wide range of choreographic style mingled together.

The last piece we saw was Front Line, one of Oguike's earliest, set to the last three movements of Shostakovich's string quartet no. 9, played live by the Pav„o Quartet. Its achievement is to capture the edgy, neurotic nature of that music, showing us people who can interact but never trust, in situations where suffering is acute but never spoken.

It's a dark vision, but (as with the rest of the repertoire) expressed with untiring enthusiasm and self-belief by the dancers.

 

 


© - Robert Beale Mar 2007

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