Russell Maliphant returns to the delightfully eccentric Coronet Theatre for the third time with maliphantworks3, a terrific triple bill of dance and film.
In The Space Between, Russell Maliphant and Dana Fouras emerge from darkness, rising from the floor, bathed in scattered, textured light. The figures are discrete at first, confined on opposite ends of the stage in spaces carved out by the undulating projections, which are designed by Maliphant together with Panagiotis Tomaras. The dancers’ movement is marked by Maliphant’s characteristic juxtaposition between the organic and the mechanical. Before long, the space between the dancers is breached and the pair are brought together into precise yet playful interaction. While the rippling light and contrasting rapid drawn out movements suspend our sense of time and place, recurring gestural motifs root us in time and connect the dancers with one another and the geography of the stage. The chemistry between Maliphant and Fouras is palpable. As the work evolves and the movements unravel into controlled frenzy, driven forth by the mechanical urgency of the soundscape designed by Fouras, there is an irresistible sensuality to the movement.
As elsewhere in Maliphant’s work, there is a striking dissonance between fluid, sinuous movements and short, sharp sculptural gestures. Here, they are cleverly emphasised with strobing light effects. The dancers morph and mutate between these movements with poise and patience, and to rousing effect. The profound artistry of Maliphant’s choreographic language exists somewhere here, in the space between tension and release, control and surrender.
Two short films interpose The Space Between and Duet, the first of which sees Fouras accompany Rachmaninov’s dramatic ‘Prelude in C Sharp minor’. Long shots are counterpointed with dramatic close-ups of her coiling and curling movement which is alas too heavily shrouded in an over adorned black dress.
The second film, in which Maliphant performs harnessed by a large elastic band suspended from the ceiling, is one of the evening’s highlights. Hoisted up by the band, Maliphant is allowed to explore more deeply the embodiment of elasticity and restraint, taking it to superhuman levels. Flirting with the floor but never quite accomplishing stillness, Maliphant is in full, glorious flight. This ‘collaboration’ between Maliphant and the harness is so effective that it begs to be extended and refined.
Finally, the pair return to the stage for Duet. Set to a soundtrack featuring Donizetti’s heart-wrenching Una Furtiva Lagrima, Duet is a delicate and sensual pas de deux. Evoking the earnest lyricism of the score, Fouras and Maliphant move with an enchanting elegance and intimacy. Subverting traditional balletic roles by swapping and sharing movements, the dancers weave through and between each other, hoisting one another into remarkable lifts and breathtaking spins. Revived from 2018, Duet is a beautiful testament not only to Maliphant and Fouras’ remarkable choreographic skill and style, but also to the husband and wife’s profound emotional connection.
With Fouras set to retire from the Russel Maliphant company after maliphantworks3, this programme is a must-see, a sight to behold and savour.
Russell Maliphant’s maliphantworks3 is showing at The Coronet until 22 February. For more information and to book tickets, click here.
Read Eirini Diamantouli’s interview with Russell Maliphant here.