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Latitude Festival, Southwold

Posted on September 23, 2010

What better place to see the most romantic scene from Swan Lake, than on the Waterfront Stage at Latitude which floated on a beautiful lake with the audience able to view not only from amidst the seated throng on the grassy verge, but also from the comfort of reclining deckchairs on the other side of the water. Some bustling festival-goers even stopped in their tracks on their way across the bridge, lingering just long enough to take in the picturesque setting.

In its second year at the festival in Southwold, Suffolk, Sadler’s Wells presented several interesting works by a variety of companies, including Hofesh Shechter’s The art of not looking back, and a performance by Psycho Stylez – Scotland’s number one break dance crew. Undoubtedly though, the highlight was the “White Swan” pas de deux from Act II of Swan Lake beautifully performed, despite the threat of rain and exposure to the elements, by English National Ballet’s Begoña Cao and James Forbat.

Also present for the second time was the Royal Opera House’s ROH2, which this year presented Ballet Black in Will Tuckett’s Depouillement. In this fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable performance six dancers took to the stage with vibrancy and gusto.

Other Latitude dance performers included double-act Elisabetta D’Aloia and Omar, in Sarah Dowling’s The Seekers. Looking like Olympic athletes from the 1940s, this pair intrepidly sought to unravel, through dance, the question: “Exactly what is the soul and where is it to be found?” Set against an industrial-sounding score by Tim Adnitt, bodily senses were explored and examined, tender embraces took on more sinister restraining tones, intermittent shrieks of laughter gave way to pained cries and wails. Even the dancers’ relationship to the audience was unclear – were we a frightening and unknown force, or a group to be mocked and ridiculed? It all made for an enthralling and unnerving performance.

Another dancer reluctant to reveal any easy answers was Laïla Diallo, in her self-choreographed solo, Imprint. Diallo took as her starting point the notion that we are all sums of our own experiences and sensations, some of which sit more easily with us than others. The performance began with Diallo moving gracefully, barefoot, around a pair of centrally placed yellow-heeled shoes. In one recurring sequence, we saw Diallo stamping her foot, arms reaching upwards, beseeching. Then, as if at the mercy of some other force, she fell to the floor and placed her head on the ground, slowly twisting with the rest of her body. Diallo finally discovered the shoes, holding them above her head; a handful of red rose petals fell out. Tentatively, she placed her hands into the shoes, finally giving herself permission to try them on. The piece ended with an exuberant Diallo jumping up and down. This was a beautifully symbolic and uplifting performance, complimented perfectly by Phil King’s strong yet plaintive cello score.

There were many engaging and thought-provoking performances at Latitude; each one enhanced by the quintessentially English backdrop of Henham Park’s grounds. To see dance outside the constraints of the theatre in such a location was a wonderful experience and well worth sleeping in a tent for.

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