The third chapter of Russell Maliphant’s maliphantworks, which started in 2017 and to which I gave a five-star review back then, is perhaps less grandiose than the first two instalments, but all about the intimacy of details. Returning to the gorgeous Coronet Theatre, the show is a glowing, mesmerising, soul-filling production.
The opening piece, The Space Between, is a bold exploration of the possibilities of light and projections (designed by Panagiotis Tomaras). The Maliphant-Fouras duo glides on stage amongst rippling waves, swimming in pure light and skimming across projections and onto eachother. Our attention is drawn to the “space between” the lights and the walls or the floor, between lights and dancers, or indeed the distance or proximity of the dancers. Maliphant’s signature style, with fluid and yet sculptural movements, is all there. Much like the choreography, transitions within the piece itself are also smooth and incredibly free-flowing: the next movement or light set-up arrives before you can realise the lights have changed. The 30-minute piece feels like a single, effortless, pleasurable breath.
The multimediality that is so integral to Maliphant’s practice pops up in Film One and Film Two, realised in collaboration with Julian Broad. Why – I found myself wondering – are we seeing two choreographies projected on a maxi-screen, rather than having them simply performed on stage? The answer I gave myself was that film allows to play with speed and close-ups, adding value rather than taking it away. Zooming in can be unforgiving, but the accomplished moves of Fouras in Film One have the upper hand. Her feet, shoulders, back, and even index fingers are flawless, which not even the slowest of slow motions can impinge on. As she spins in a voluminous and curly black dress, the only word I could think of was “sublime”.
Russell Maliphant in Silent Lines © Julian Broad
In comparison, Film Two feels slightly less mind-blowing. Maliphant’s creative trick is here to dance with an elastic band hanging from the ceiling wrapped around his chest. At times, he hits sweet spots and unexpected, virtually horizontal shapes, and I loved the negotiation of swift bouncing and slow tension. After a while, things get a bit repetitive, or at least more repetitive that one would expect from Maliphant. But with the inclusion of a “limit” only to push the boundaries of movement further, he takes simplicity to the next level.
The final piece, Duet, has the flavour of a blast from the past, and indeed it is: it premiered at maliphantworks2 (2018). But it’s just as beautiful and moving as it was when I first saw it. Fouras and Maliphant waltz softly from one corner of the stage to the other, with elements of the routine borrowed from contact improvisation. Wearing integral black, and with the tender light design by Michael Hulls, the piece proves (or reiterates) that the duo is phenomenal even in the most simple of settings – counter-balancing the first experimental and heavily light-designed act. Donizetti’s Una furtiva lagrima sang by Enrico Caruso is just the perfect music (rétro, romantic and lyrical, but far from cheesy) to close the soirée.
Maliphantworks3 is on at The Coronet Theatre until 22nd February. More information and tickets on their website.