No standing still: the best of lockdown dance

From an elegant ode to San Francisco to Japanese hip-hop in a park, here’s how dancers are tackling our new normal

San Francisco Ballet: Dance of Dreams

This is the good stuff when it comes to lockdown dance. It helps, of course, when you have a full film crew and five top-flight choreographers. Dance of Dreams is a six-minute ode to San Francisco, backed by Bernard Herrmann’s deeply romantic music for Vertigo. It’s directed by Benjamin Millepied and the highlights are a solo by Justin Peck for principal dancer Joseph Walsh, equal parts assiduous and fully free-flowing, and a duet from Christopher Wheeldon for Madison Keesler and Benjamin Freemantle, circling the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts while showing off Wheeldon’s fluent command of the pas de deux.

Summer Shorts 2020

More west coast action as Marquee TV streams films made pre-lockdown from the San Francisco Dance film festival, including the powerful Your Face by director Yoram Savion, with flex dancer Drew Dollaz’s rangy grace illustrating the story of a black boy growing up, graduating from an energetic six-year-old (“a jazz drum solo waiting to happen”) to the hardened defiance of a teenager. Also check out Marianela Núñez being gorgeous in Nela, and the silly seriousness of Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, plus films from Scotland’s Screen.Dance festival, too.

Rhiannon Faith: Drowntown Lockdown

One of the many shows postponed due to coronavirus was Rhiannon Faith’s Drowntown, a dance-theatre piece on the themes of isolation and vulnerability, more apt than ever in current circumstances. With her cast, Faith created a video prologue to the piece while all her dancers were in lockdown, and the short film certainly captures the sense of being trapped. There’s frustration, loneliness, paranoia, helplessness – and a teaser for the stage show, when performances can finally (fingers crossed) resume.

Kyle Abraham: Ces noms que nous portons

In honour of America’s Pride month, New York City Ballet dancer Taylor Stanley was filmed outside a rainbow-lit Lincoln Center, in choreography by Kyle Abraham. To the sound of Erik Satie, Abraham coaxes multiple identities out of Stanley’s body: a slow walk with hands up, as if confronted by police, twists into a delicate Nijinskian pose; both sinuous and staccato stories flow through his body. Stanley’s a divine dancer, and this is a few minutes of movement with grace and gravitas.

Botis Seva and BirdGang

Two shorts from the BBC’s Filmed in Lockdown series. In Can’t Kill Us All, Botis Seva finds his sanity deteriorating under pressures of lockdown, fatherhood and racial injustice. You can feel the turbulence. In Flying Home, street dancers BirdGang, choreographed by Simeon Qsyea, make good use of the now all-too-familiar segmented Zoom-style screen.

Alonzo King: There Is No Standing Still

As the title suggests, you can’t stop dancers moving, and this series of films from Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet shows the company answering their calling, even if there are no stages on which to perform. There’s a sense of the spiritual in these films of dancers alone, out in the natural world or in empty cityscapes, moving slowly, lovingly and meaningfully among the elements. Three films have been released so far, with two more to come.

Kentaro!! & Dayonashiik

From the Coronet theatre’s recent Electric Japan season, a music video from dancer/choreographer Kentaro!! and his company Dayonashiik. It’s a Japanese take on hip-hop that he calls datsuryoku-kei, translated as ennui-style. The routine is filmed in a park with a few special effects thrown in, and its DIY aesthetic looks like something you might have seen on The Chart Show, but there’s a definite appeal to its naive stylings.


Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

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