After a sell-out at The Place last year, Choreographics takes centre stage once more, only this time in one of London’s time-honoured dance ‘homes’ – the Barbican. Under the direction of Associate Artist George Williamson and other collaborators such as Dr Bruce Wall and Kerry Nicholls, four dancers have taken their chances to create original work based on poems from the First World War.

The processes of these very unique pieces of work are laid out for us in their various stages. We watch a short film of each choreographer as he/she tells us of their chosen poem which they used as a starting point, their inspirations and their objectives. It is such a joy to witness the secret moments of rehearsal that we wouldn’t usually see. It also gears us up for the piece itself. This is followed by a song that has also been written in reaction to the chosen poem. We then are treated to the dancers’ magic.


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The dancers are magnetised within the dense and intricate context of war. Their grace and skill are beacons that our eyes ebb and admire. Boundaries are tested and explored in all four of the pieces. Incredible staging and costume effects are showcased superbly in Fabian Reimair’s We Are Free. The poppy field is sectioned by red rope, attached to one of the dancers, static, as though she is death itself.

The highlight for me is In Living Memory, choreographed by James Streeter. It snatches my inertia and comfort, stealing my imagination in a way that powerful theatre ought to. I see real people connecting on the stage with hearts aflame so fibrous that it becomes irrelevant that they are dancing.

The male dancers James Forbat and Nathan Young, parallel each other as their physical decisions dance betwixt the dim, yearning light. This fog of light hangs between the dancers, casting a prism of shadow to highlight each moment even more for our curious eyes. Erina Takahashi holds her own tune that sings true and alive between the two men. Is it a love story? Is it a parallel of life and death? Or is it simply showing us the loss of love, as it once was? These questions resonate in my mind as I admire the fabric of this timeless piece.

Nancy Osbaldeston dances in Vera, choreographed by Stina Quagebeur. Her tender and youthful beauty is as vibrant as her blushing dress that almost breathes on the stage as it moves. Amidst the stunning choreography between the two dancers, Nancy’s strange and disjointed foot work intrigues us, showing us a piece of her heart. Her broken soul is suffering, and we see it breaking down in front of us, only surviving on its memory of the past, when she still had her loved one.

These sensitive and formidable pieces of work are a testament to not only the people who lived through the First World War, but also to the dancers and creative team who have had the bravery and instinct to honour and discover these men and women once more. An evening of finery, respecting both the past in its significance in our memory, and the luminous future of these talented choreographers and dancers.

Choreographics is playing at the Barbican Centre until 24 May. For more information and tickets, see the Barbican Centre website.