MC 14/22 & Emergence – Scottish Ballet: Sadler’s Wells, London, 10 June 2017

Corps blimey

Looked at from any angle, Crystal Pite’s Emergence is damned good

A double-bill of half-naked bodies. Angelin Preljocaj was the first to capitalise on the lack of budget for shirts, putting his 12 men in long black skirts instead. MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) is a bruising piece, full of uncompromising aggression and fierce fighting. Oppression and abuse of power appear to be at the heart of things and it makes for a hard watch.

Weaker individuals are consistently singled out by others and subjected to painful-looking beatings – the violence is extremely convincing and brilliantly choreographed. There’s also an interestingly blurred line between sensuality and brutality, and the section where everyone freezes regularly into angry ‘Last Supper’-type tableaux is brilliantly done. Yet, despite all this, and despite a terrific performance from the entire cast, MC 14/22’s episodic structure and heartless soundscape creates a heavily disjointed and empty feeling. That may be deliberate but it meant it was difficult to want to engage.

Crystal Pite’s Emergence had just as animalistic a premise and was also encased in a strange sound world, but the extraordinarily relentless spectacle made it a far more gripping watch. Manufactured for 30-odd dancers, small groups scurry away from the ant-like mass, limbs crackle and twitch, bodies contort and derange themselves. Quite how or why this community of nervous beasties operate is never clear but a sense of impending menace hovers loosely around.

Unbelievably good when working with large ensembles, one of the secrets to Pite’s eye-boggling choreography appears to lie in her attention to detail. For instance, there’s a short section where a large part of the cast are lying spread-eagled on the floor, twitching their fingers to insect-like clicks; it’s not simply the volume of bodies that brings it alive but the way she makes your eyes run unwittingly from one figure’s fingers to another’s.

No-one captured the scowling energy of the piece quite like Sophie Martin in the prologue; it wasn’t just that she didn’t look human anymore, more that she just wasn’t human anymore.There’s a couple of softer, more balletic moments in Emergence (including a duet beautifully danced by Bethany Kingsley-Garner and Victor Zarallo), but they look oddly out of place. This is a work where the pointe shoe stabs the floor rather than floating across it. A great piece of dance.

Gerard Davis

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