Spring review – jugglers join dancers for joyfully hypnotic show

Sadler’s Wells, London
Gandini Juggling and Alexander Whitley’s collaboration is full of simple pleasures and intricate skill

A hybrid of juggling and contemporary dance? Now that’s niche, you may say. But there is actually nothing obscure about this collaboration between Sean Gandini’s juggling troupe and choreographer Alexander Whitley. Spring is a 60-minute performance full of simple pleasure – though filled with intricate skill. It features five dancers and seven jugglers, male and female, in a series of short set pieces that are joyful exercises in colour, shape, rhythm and sound.

In the best scenes, the movements of dancers and jugglers mesh with matching angles and accents. Their roles begin to blur as legs and arms and balls make a highly organised tangle of sharp-elbowed semaphore. The brain likes pattern and order. It fires up our pleasure centres in a deeply ingrained response. That’s why there is something so satisfying about watching the repetitions of the jugglers’ hypnotic geometry, the balls caught to the coarse beat and glitchy melodies of Gabriel Prokofiev’s live strings and electronics soundtrack. The tossed balls and rings open up the vertical space of the stage, expanding paths of movement beyond the stretching lines of Whitley’s dancers.

Central to Spring is a pleasing use of colour, whether that is Guy Hoare’s lighting saturating the stage in scarlet, lime and tangerine, or juggling rings switching from white to primary hues – such a simple idea, perfectly executed. Gandini is less concerned with virtuoso tricks of the “Look how many things I can juggle!” variety (although we get a few of those) and more interested in choreography and multiplying effects and patterns by increasing the number of performers and the ways they interact. The jugglers bring a different focus to that of the dancers – literally their gaze is locked in one direction, in contrast to the changing flow of the dance – which makes for an interesting dynamic.

The show’s structure may sometimes lack momentum, and the talky, not quite funny enough interludes between sections are a bit undercooked. But at a time when the world around us seems to be in chaos, there is great escapism and gratification in witnessing a happy yet understated display of order and skill.

Contributor

Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

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