Posted on March 19, 2012
Elektro Kif , at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, on March 2, opens with vibrant energy. Following a day in the life of an all-male group of college students, the show begins by introducing each of the eight boys one by one: there’s the bully-boy, the geek and the stylish hip-shaker. The clear definition of their characters, with their various alliances and feuds, prepares us for a story involving these particular personalities and their very individual styles. Yet, as perhaps with the nascent dance of electro itself, some strong ideas never fully mature in this 70-minute show.
After a confident opening, the individual identities of the performers seem to become subsumed into the group. Having showcased what seemed to be Alou Sidibé’s trademark elastic-legged dancing in the first scene, for example, it was odd not to do more with it in the ensuing pieces.
That said, Elektro Kif, to Blanca Li’s knowledge the first theatrical show based on electro dance, has energy, style and a good sense of humour. Electro, an expressive, posturing dance that adds lots of voguing and tutting to street’s usual popping and locking, is perfectly suited to the students’ age group and situation.
Indeed, the first time choreographer and director Blanca Li experienced electro in a Parisian park, it was performed by students. “There was something very fresh that you can only see during the first moments of a dance that has not come to maturity,” she writes in a programme note.
We follow the boys studying in a classroom, eating in a canteen or playing on a basketball court. Often individual fragments of movement – fiddling with a mobile, shovelling food into a mouth – begin to synchronise into a shared, almost primal, rhythm. Tao Gutierrez’s music covers everything from techno and house to afrobeat and classical music. Spanish-born Li also draws on a wide range of influences from flamenco to ballet.
She proves that electro dance does not need electro music in an affecting solo to Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9 No 1, which drags a little when the dancer is joined and echoed by others. Elsewhere, group pieces have real strength as the dancers pile up their desks into a barricade or stamp through rhythms in martial headscarves. There are moments, too, of unexpected gentleness, as when the boys’ fluttering hands are framed by Jacques Châtelet’s piercing lighting, so that they resemble doves hovering above the dark stage.
Photograph © Arnold Jerocki