Shaker @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Presented by the Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, Shaker is a wonderfully imaginative piece inspired by the magical world within a snow globe.

With backgrounds in dance and theatre respectively, Pinto and Pollak have created a truly charming spectacle with this new work. The curtains open on a wintry land. Snowcovers the stage and three cabins sit in a row at the rear of the set. A little man in astriped suit is cranking a wind effects machine and a dancer turnsslowly beside him as if in a musical jewllery box.

It sounds twee, but there is something hauntingly familiar and more than a little chilling about the set and the costumes. Suddenly a previously unnoticed black mound starts lurching, writhing and pulsing in synchronicity with the music and a tribe of dancers emerge. They create a unique synergy with the snow and the scene explodes with folk, ballet, street influenced dancing.

Both terror and humour permeate this work. One can’t help but make associations with captivity, enslavement and regret. At one point a giant male figure is shown brutally pulling two girls across the stage by the hair, but somehow they overcome their captor and forgive him. The image of bodies being dragged in this manner, creates chilling whispers in the audience’s minds, images of prisoners of war, other atrocities, but there is also humour in abundance, especially in the depiction of the domestic squabbles created by one wife’s struggle to serve tea to her husband.

Many of the dancers are costumed in full body stockings, in a variety of colours, conjuring images of weirdly erotic superheros. Their performances are acrobatic, gymnastic even, full of leaping and diving movements, lots of gliding, flipping and falling. Their style is totally fluid, bringing each flex of muscle brilliantly alive.

The huge range of dance styles on display is combined with wide ranging use of music including pieces by Chopin, Purcell, Gavin Bryars and Arvo Part; there is Swedish folk music and cover versions of Japanese songs from the fifties. It is truly, exhilaratingly eclectic, with the rhythm capable of shifting suddenly from frenetic clapping to solemn aria.

The magic concludes as the snow globe settles at the end. With touching melancholic solos, the dancers resist the coming calm. Here Uri Morag’s lighting comes into its own, highlighting the colours of the costumes, making rainbows on the stage, until the colours are lost in shadow, buried back beneath the white powder. This amazing effect was a little unnerving.

One dancer remains, dressed in black, a neat juxtaposition to the eerie stillness created by the bodies in the snow. The presence evokes the idea of death. The political interpretations that can be read into the piece do not dim one’s enjoyment but certainly adds a poignancy to all we have seen. Shaker, part of the 2007 Dance Umbrella programme, is a fantastic, exciting piece of dance that will definitely stay with me.

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