Transverse Orientation review – beauty and disgust from Dimitris Papaioannou

Sadler’s Wells, London
Fake babies waving to the audience, an imposing puppet bull and an optical illusion of entwined limbs combine in a cocktail of contradictions

Is there anywhere else you’d find slapstick and Botticelli’s Venus sharing the same stage, a brooding Minotaur and a woman sandwiched in a camp bed like it’s a mouse trap? Let alone a (fake) baby torn from the oozing gloop of its amniotic sac who then sits up and waves to the audience. All these things live together in the world of Greek choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou, a master of contradictions. He’ll create sublime tableaux and then puncture the moment with absurdity; and cross beauty with disgust, wonder and comedy.

Transverse Orientation.
Myth, humour and optical illusion … Transverse Orientation. Photograph: Julian Mommert

Papaioannou has been honing his vision since the 1980s, drawing on fine art and Greek myth, humour and optical illusion – two dancers combining into an exotic beast, for example, legs and heads seemingly pointing in the wrong directions. The title Transverse Orientation apparently refers to the mechanism by which moths always point themselves towards the light. We don’t know what drives Papaioannou’s dancers, they are flesh and blood (lots of flesh), but primarily raw material for Papaioannou to sculpt with: six men and the serene Breanna O’Mara, who with her long auburn hair looks like she’s stepped out of a Renaissance painting. There’s also an imposing and very realistic black bull, a puppet that almost steals the show.

What’s certain is that Papaioannou is unique in what he does, the painterly precision of his set pieces, the sudden magical transformations. Some scenes unfold slowly, a lot of downtime between the revelations and more process than strictly necessary. This piece doesn’t feel as rich as the last work he brought to London’s Dance Umbrella festival, The Great Tamer, but it concocts some truly arresting moments.


Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Body shock: Suspiria’s Damien Jalet unleashes his headless dancers
The horror-film choreographer’s new show, Vessel, weaves spells with writhing limbs, menacing ritual figures and a cauldron of gloop. He explains its origins

Chris Wiegand

08, Apr, 2019 @1:06 PM

Article image
Family/Love Chapter 2; Transverse Orientation review – from one extreme to another
While Sharon Eyal’s repetitive works writhe with energy, Dimitris Papaioannou’s new piece lacks momentum but not beauty

Sarah Crompton

31, Oct, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
English National Ballet: She Persisted review – odes to Frida, Pina and Nora
Ibsen gets an urgent retelling, Kahlo dances with a monkey and Bausch’s masterwork is back in Tamara Rojo’s stellar triple bill

Lyndsey Winship

05, Apr, 2019 @11:23 AM

Article image
Wilkie Branson: TOM review – a sublime, slow-burn study of isolation
Part dance performance, part film, this solo show is a note-perfect portrayal of the all-consuming nature of loneliness

Lyndsey Winship

24, May, 2020 @10:09 AM

Article image
Betroffenheit review – from trauma, a savage beauty
Crystal Pite fashions unflinching art from real-life tragedy in this inspiring dance-theatre hybrid

Luke Jennings

05, Jun, 2016 @8:00 AM

Article image
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre review – swirling tales from Taiwan
Cheng Tsung-lung’s 13 Tongues circles and flows, while Lin Hwai-min’s Dust is a slow slide into the dark

Lyndsey Winship

27, Feb, 2020 @12:06 PM

Article image
Mám review – spellbinding gathering of music and memories
Michael Keegan-Dolan’s new dance work is steeped in the landscape and culture of the Dingle Peninsula

Lyndsey Winship

06, Feb, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Jasmin Vardimon: Pinocchio review – joyous new levels of dance invention
Vardimon’s choreography is superbly performed and complemented by artful stage illusions, but this family show’s over-moralising tone slows down the story

Judith Mackrell

25, Oct, 2016 @1:45 PM

Article image
Tanztheater Wuppertal: Bon Voyage, Bob … review – love, loss and Pina
The loss of the company’s founder Pina Bausch a decade ago is at the heart of this meticulous meditation on grief and death

Lyndsey Winship

24, Feb, 2019 @12:32 PM

Article image
Gardenia 10 Years Later review – a drag cabaret’s frail, moving swansong
The performers of the Belgian company Les Ballets C de la B revive a decade-old stage show with added poignancy

Lyndsey Winship

17, Nov, 2021 @12:03 PM