It’s difficult to talk about Amici without discussing their aims – namely, the inclusion of all performers, able-bodied and disabled alike. The company’s policy of nurturing performers, regardless of what others might consider their limitations, is a widely-publicised and lauded one. However, it also means that in the realms of professional dance companies, Amici is not so much a swan as it is a different bird altogether; one that puts the political into performance, and eschews in order to celebrate creativity and courage in all forms.
Their anniversary showpiece 35 Amici Drive is a strange, shimmery affair. Choreographed by founder and director Wolfgang Stange, it gathers what looks to be all members of its cast on stage — which has been transformed into a bare-bones, warehouse-like setting — and parades them all out in due turn for their moment of glory. It’s an unwieldy introduction, long and punctuated by poorly miked speeches, unexplained shuffling, and at a particularly confusing point, the twirling of several members of the company with their fists upstretched.
But then things turn. The lights shimmer; the cluttered stage clears to make room for a monologue, for the discussion of homophobia or domestic violence, or the simple fact that some of us only do fit in different places on account of our rough edges and jagged corners. And it becomes clear — abidingly, blindingly clear — that Amici’s chosen narrative of the night, that of a community facing eviction to make room for corporate development, is a spirited, ferocious rejection of the idea altogether; and a future protest, perhaps, against any harm that may come the company’s way.
It’s this that makes Drive special, alongside the audience’s support. As a newcomer to Amici myself, I was overwhelmed by their participation and reaction to moments, until my epiphany struck. This isn’t a performance itself so much as it is a conversation, one in which the viewers can be caught murmuring proudly afterwards about the sweat on a dancer’s brow or the way the main character of the night turned to speak to the audience.
Or, in other words, it’s a performance and a company utterly aware of what it stands for and who it’s addressing. Which is to say, not necessarily perfect stage lighting or pacy narrative progression or frighteningly impressive dance solos — of which there are a few, nonetheless — but the inclusion and spotlighting of the paradigms it’s shifting in the world.
35 Amici Drive played at the Lyric Hammersmith until September 12. For more information, see the Lyric Hammersmith website. Photo by Nik Mackey.