Review: Steve Reich Project/ Floating Flowers at Dance Base

Two works – both at Dance Base, both underpinned by insistent, rhythmically driving soundscapes – but each one informed by a distinctly different cultural background.

In Steve Reich Project, Belgian choreographer Isabella Soupert joins forces with the MP4 Quartet in creating vivid, visual and physical responses to music by Steve Reich. The live playing of ‘Pendulum Music’, ‘Different Trains’ and ‘WTC 9/11’ is, in itself, a pleasure, but Soupert’s addition of back projections, spoken text and choreographed movements evokes the memories, the humanity and the need to mark historic tragedies that lay behind these compositions.

Reich’s Jewish American roots shadow the phrases that loop and repeat unrelentingly in ‘Different Trains’. His starting point was the trains that transported Jews to concentration camps during World War Two, and their journeys are referenced by having the musicians gradually marshalled across the stage by the lone dancer. Meanwhile, the words ‘Different Trains’ are fragmented and spooled across the backcloth, a counterpoint to the dancer who is frequently ‘tethered’ to the music by the long cable of her microphone.

Soupert’s choreography never grandstands. The moments of concentrated balance, the sudden extensions and stretches, the spinning on the spot (in ‘WPC 9/11’) have a subtle spontaneity to them, as if Reich’s music had called them into action. Whether you see Shantala Pepe or Johanna Willig-Rosenstein, who alternate this role, the sense of being drawn into the core being of Reich’s music is hugely affecting, illuminatingly so.

B-Dance from Taiwan are channelling ancient Ghost Festival rituals in Floating Flowers, even as Po-Cheng Tsai’s choreography, with its fierce contemporary edge – pumping, almost robotic arms, high lifts, martial arts, the dynamic use of the floor and doublework – lend interesting distance to traditional formalities. The billowing white skirts are, in Western dance culture, reminiscent of ballets blancs. Here, they swirl and float like fragile, water-born paper lanterns as the dancers keep pace with pulverising rhythms, sweatily unflinching in their rigorous execution of Tsai’s blisteringly full-on dance. Beyond fierce!

Steve Reich Project, Dance Base, 2-18 Aug, 7.20pm

Taiwan Season: Floating Flowers, Dance Base, 6-25 Aug, 3.30pm

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