Theatre

Bonachela Dance Company: Square Map of Q4 @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London



This is the first dance piece I’ve seen in the longest time that really exuded an atmosphere of danger and disquiet.

The latest work from Rafael Bonachela’s eponymous company, it had an intense, unnerving quality, something especially true of the opening moments, in which the dancers move slowly and yet suddenly out of the dark, appearing abruptly at the front of the stage.

While the dim lighting and aggressively industrial music add to this sense of the unsafe, the monster hidden around the corner, in the end they undermine the piece – the excessively loud music being especially at fault here. The movement of the performers was at times beautiful, but it was also frustrating. Many of Bonachela’s dancers appeared isolated from one another, and this, combined with the sheer force of the chosen music, made them feel like tiny cogs in a massive machine. Yet, despite this mechanised feel, there was also something very organic at the centre of this piece.

Perhaps the most successful part of this piece was a central sequence, in which two dancers contort themselves into some amazingly beautiful and unexpected shapes under a harsh red spot light, constantly maintaining contact with each other.

Square Map of Q4 is one of several dance pieces I’ve seen of late that seems fascinated with technology and mechanisation, with pushing back physical boundaries. However the problem with this particular piece is that there are too many disparate elements at work and you end up switching off from the potential emotion of it. The music is also far too aggressive, unrelentingly so, assaulting your ears and making concentration quite difficult. Marius de Vries (who in the past has worked with Madonna and Rufus Wainwright) has composed a score so loud, so full on, that it practically vibrates all the way through you, dulling your responses and neutering your senses.

The use of lighting is also problematic – the stage is very murkily lit. Images are projected onto the bodies of the dancers, which, while striking, adds to the confusion. Put simply, it is hard to see what is going on, frustratingly so. There is also very little sense of cohesiveness to this piece, mainly because you are often unable to see sections of the stage. It is possible to engage with the individual performers, but getting a sense of the piece as a whole is complicated by the gloom.

There are some fascinating ideas being played out here; encroaching mechanisation and the rapid evolution of technology the sublimation of human relationships in the face of it all. This is all conveyed through the choreography yet the oppressive use of noise and the weak lighting are frustrating and counter-productive, they leave you feeling lost and bewildered, like you’ve missed some important point or vital punchline.



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