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Contemporary Dance at The Print room

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Mon 23 February – Sat 28 February


Print Room at the Coronet,
103 Notting Hill Gate,
London W11 3LB



CHOREOGRAPHERS: Hubert Essakow, Kirill Burlov, Tamarin Stott, Mbulelo Ndabeni.


Three choreographers join our Artistic Associate Hubert Essakow in creating 4 new short dance works that celebrate 1898: the year that the Coronet was built.  


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I attended the Saturday matinee performance of this ambitious event (seven performances in six days of four new choreographic works), aimed at publicising the restoration of the Coronet in Notting Hill.  Originally built in 1898, the theatre has long been used as a cinema but its new owners, The Print Room, aim to restore it as a theatre in its full Victorian splendour with a permanent home for contemporary dance, amongst their other programmes. 


As the main auditorium is in the process of refurbishment, a small, black box studio theatre was constructed on the actual stage with the performing area being drenched in white which allowed the use of a fascinating set of projections to recall 1898.  The four 15-minute pieces were run without a break, not giving the audience a chance to applaud each one individually, which was a bit disconcerting at first.


The first piece, “Adieu” was by the Print Room’s Artistic Associate, Hubert Essakow, and had I not read the programme, I might have thought it was set in a padded cell from the way the dancers clung to the ‘walls’ and beat their hands against it.  However, it was an evocation of previous performers at the Coronet who, according to Essakow’s programme note devoted “themselves to representations of beauty, sensuality and self-expression”.  This was especially true of the veteran ballerina Naomi Sorkin who wafted gracefully round the performing space as Sarah Bernhardt, even speaking some of her lines, dressed in flowing orange draperies very reminiscent of Leighton’s “Flaming June” painted in the same decade.  Cree Barnett Williams and David Ledger added to the elegance of the piece but I felt it ran out of choreographic steam halfway through with its rather disjointed soundtrack of pieces by Debussy and Satie entangled with electronic sound which was a bit too loud for the small space.


“Absinth(e)” by Kirill Burlov depicted the mind-altering effects of the liquor which was the drink of choice, certainly of working-class Parisians at the time, to help them forget their woes.  It started off cheerily enough, with a drunken Burlov dancing with his shadow but then things turned violent with the arrival of Rob McNeil embodying the dark side of his mind.  While one could admire the acrobatic skills of the two dancers, the prolonged fighting between them would put anyone off wanting to try Absinthe or any other alcohol (but perhaps that was the point!) and, once again, the electronic score by Platon Buravicky was far too loud for the confined space.


My main reason for attending this event was to see a new piece by English National Ballet dancer Tamarin Stott, whose quirky “work in progress” for the company’s choreographic evening two years ago had greatly impressed me.  Collaborating with the same composer, Ryan Cockerham, she did not disappoint, with a piece that was both entertaining and at times poignant.  Entitled “Scene to be seen” and danced by Stott and fellow ENB dancer Nathan Young, the performers were sometimes the audience and sometimes the artists onstage, starting the piece in the present time with Stott playing with her mobile phone and taking selfies, much to the annoyance of Young who thought she should be paying attention to the stage, before reverting to their 19th century counterparts where there was often the same lack of attention to the stage (plus ça change!). Cockerham’s soundtrack was an intriguing mixture of speech and music recordings of the time, interspersed with barrel organ music and a female voice reading text about the etiquette expected of women at that time and particularly the generally low opinion of women who appeared on stage.  I felt this was very well reflected in the costuming, with Young in a typical Victorian suit and Stott, looking vulnerable in corset and petticoat, and in the choreography which, inevitably with their ballet background, involved a lot more complex partnering than the other pieces and more engagement with the audience.  If one moment stands out more than others, it was Young holding Stott in a sitting position so that she appeared to be in the audience and then lifting her so that she was above us with a look of wonderment as she surveyed her audience.  It was the one piece in the programme which left me wanting more.   


The last piece, “Beholder of Beauty” by Mbulelo Ndabeni took its inspiration from “The Geisha”  but, with its angst-ridden movements to a symphonic score by Shirley Thompson, seemed more akin to “Madam Butterfly” than “The Geisha” which was actually a musical comedy!  For me, this was the least successful of the four pieces.


All praise to the Print Room for commissioning these pieces and I hope we shall see more dance at the Coronet, especially when the restoration work is complete.

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