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Vincent Dance Theatre: 21 Years/21 Works review – superb performances

By Judith Mackrell

The Guardian, 6 March 2015

Given the cultural and financial vicissitudes of the past two decades, it’s pretty remarkable that Charlotte Vincent has kept her own independent dance company running for 21 years. This spring she’s celebrating the fact with a touring programme of works from her back catalogue of repertory. The format changes for each venue: in Shoreditch Town Hall, two live works, a film and a kind of archival playroom inhabit four different rooms in the building, and with all the events running simultaneously the audience are encouraged to move around, to sample, absorb and play. The evening starts in the Assembly Room, a spacious, marbled, galleried hall that has been transformed into a dark and smoky dreamworld for the ensemble piece Underworld. Eight men and women are drawn into repeating, obsessional loops of movement, rituals of entrapment that are inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. During a slow, rapt opening duet, a couple cling and circle each other without meeting each other’s gaze. As more performers join them, the dance is strung out between a maze of chairs: Gavin Bryars’s music, with its sounds of bells and distant choirs, suggests an archaic world of ceremonies, but also of suffering and imprisonment. Vincent Dance Theatre Facebook Twitter Pinterest Josh Wille and Azzurra Ardovini in Underworld. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian Time moves slowly, but when you next dip into Underworld the chairs may be in chaos and the dancers leaping and vaulting over them; a woman may be intently submerging herself in a tub of water, while a man assaults a chair with an axe. On paper, the images sound random but Vincent choreographs with such a specific attention to gesture, atmosphere and motive that in performance they feel part of a fully imagined world. Advertisement In another room, the film Glasshouse is playing – a duet that anatomises a man and woman’s relationship in fantastical but punishingly visceral imagery. In a third room, Aurora Lubos is performing Look at Me Now, Mummy. This 2008 solo looks, at first, like a very familiar riff on feminist themes as Lubos, amid a chaos of babies and baking, tries and fails to be a domestic goddess. The comedy and observations are wonderfully exact. Lubos captures the exhausted, surreal derangement that comes from being a new mother as she beatifically pops her crying infant in the microwave, frantically wipes at a stain on her work surface, then attempts to turn the kitchen towel into a paper flower for her hair. As Lubos’s face slips and slides though a repertory of appeasing, pleasing expressions, we can almost see the imaginary judges for whom she’s performing. It’s superb performances such as these, as well as Vincent’s own choreography, that have ensured the company’s survival. • Until 7 March. Box office: 020 7739 6176. Venue: Shoreditch Town Hall, London. Then touring until 13 May.