Vortex: Russell Maliphant Dance Company

Vortex: Russell Maliphant Dance Company

DanceEast 30 September and 1 October 2022

As soon as the premiere of Vortex finished, I bought a ticket for the following evening. I was so glad I did as the piece is rich, varied, surprising and rewards a second viewing.

Inspired by the artist Jackson Pollock, Vortex contains many of the characteristics I expect from Maliphant – amazing dancers, magically fluid, sinuous, expansive movement that plays with gravity and light. The dancers interact with each other and, less usually, with a range of material objects. A wall tilts to become a canvas to portray the dancers and their shadows, a gravity-defying slope on which the dancers play and, an elevated stage. Fabric is blown by a fan to catch the light, a paint-bucket rotates over the dancers causing them to roll, twist and relax close to the floor, sand falls from above creating beautiful effects with the light and a Pollock-like image on the floor which is reflected in mirrors that get placed on the frame of the wall.

Both halves open with a beautiful, simple but intricate, solo. Images of artmaking explore the dynamics between the visual and the kinaesthetic, the different parts of painting and of dancing. At times I felt I was glimpsing the making of the piece, seeing under its skin. The flow, energy, control and precision of the dancers is compelling. Less comfortable is the sense of jeopardy for the dancers. Of course, I know they would be meticulously rehearsed and there was no real danger, but I had a visceral response to their need to navigate and manipulate a range of objects that interrupt the space that is their natural medium. At times their interaction with objects was functional, at times they create a playground of opportunities for new kinds of movement

There were lovely connections with youth and with Ipswich. They are a relatively young company, with a couple being apprentices and several having experience at a Centre of Advanced Training, including the one based at DanceEast, and/or having performed at DanceEast as a member of the National Youth Dance Company.

Mostly, I found it beautiful. I loved the variety, imagery, dynamism and exceptional ability and the humanity of the dancers doing something similar but not quite the same as each other.

By Jeanette Siddall