George Piper Dances @ Richmond Theatre, London

For the uninitiated, contemporary dance can appear daunting, intimidating, dependent on its own particularly visual vocabulary, but George Piper Dances, the company founded by Ballet Boyz Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, attempts to open up dance as an art form, to make it as accessible as possible.

Encore, their new show, is a mixed programme of four works by choreographers at the vanguard of British dance: Rafael Bonachela, Liv Lorent, Will Tuckett and Charles Linehan.

The evening opens with video footage of Nunn and Trevitt talking to camera about their company. This footage allows the audience to put the forthcoming pieces into context and learn about the company’s ethos. Will Tuckett’s On Classicism is the first piece, a duet between Trevitt and Oxana Panchenko set to five of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. They dance as lovers dance, sometimes mirroring each other’s movements, and at other times, dancing their own solo pieces.

In between each individual work came yet more video footage, dividing up the show into manageable sections. In these sequences Nunn and Trevitt are amusing and endearing, discussing their relationship with each other and their first meeting with Panchenko.

Up next on the bill was Charles Linehan’s Jjanke, a duet for Nunn and Trevitt which explores folk-dancing, with music by Slovenian accordionist Bratko Bibic. This piece is majestic and bold, with footwork reminiscent of flamenco. It was witty, playful and a real treat to watch.

In the footage introducing Liv Lorent’s Propeller, the three dancers spoke of the difficulties they encountered while creating the piece, yet Panchenko and Nunn danced fluidly and passionately, the story behind the dance speaking clearly through its strong visual language. The lighting of this piece was simple yet stunning, their dance one of co-dependency, as they held and leant on one another sequentially. There was a subtle but real sexual charge to the work and, when Nunn held Panchenko up and spun her around, she became beautifully puppet-like it was truly a marvel to watch.

The evening concluded with Rafael Bonachela’s Mandox Bandox, which seaw all three dancers onstage together; the shapes their bodies made were mesmerizing, and their movements were, as always, strong and assured. However, for a finale, I was expecting something more. For two former lead dancers with the Royal Ballet, they didn’t give as much of what they were capable of as I would have liked to see. I found myself waiting, hoping, for that extra something that didn’t ever come.

As an encore, they threw the audience off-guard with a surprise rendition of the Artic Monkeys I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor, complete with drums and bass guitars. This was a down-to-earth, informal and accessible performance, where for once, the audience was able to get to know the dancers, not just the dance. They successfully demystified the process of dance and, with the unexpected way the show ended, left everyone feeling like dancing.

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