You know you’re in for an interesting evening when you’re issued with an adapted bin bag on entry. And when you note that the floor has been changed into what looks a bit like a large paddling pool. All of this makes sense when you realise that water is the star of Flow, a collaborative dance production which explores both the nature of the element and our relationship with it. Set in the small, intense space at The Print Room in Notting Hill Gate, the work follows the journey of water through its different chemical states, structured by Peter Gregson’s expressive score which is divided into six movements. As anyone who has studied science at school will know, ice melts and becomes liquid water, and on further addition of heat becomes vapour, but Flow doesn’t really go with the curriculum. Under the choreography of Hubert Essakow, a dancer with the Royal Ballet for 10 years, the dancers respond to Gregson’s music, moving from a stunning opening with Thomasin Gülgeç trapped with a central muslin block of ice, to reflecting on how we use and depend on water, interspersed with projections of disturbing facts about deaths from waterborne diseases.
Vapour is the next to be explored, with the help of a huge waft of fake smoke which is visually very striking in the intimate space, followed by the powerful storm movement which, perhaps rather too obviously, is realised by the dancers combining into rolling wave formations, carrying across the stage the unified strength of tempestuous waters. The ending, though, is the bit those of us clutching our makeshift waterproof coverings have been waiting for with some trepidation, and it doesn’t disappoint. The dancers embrace the liquid water which now laps inside the paddling-pool stage, showering the audience perched around the edge in their enthusiasm, before melting down onto the floor until they lie still, mesmerisingly returned to the element which gives us life.
Essakow’s choreography is stunning and pairs well with Gregson’s score, but one area of the collaboration that’s a little weak is the realisation of the set design. The muslin ‘ice block’ is flimsy and unconvincing, and the text projected onto it is very difficult to read. In general, the narrative is easy to follow and clearly led by the score, but it’s muddled by having two central threads, the transitive nature of water or our relationship to it. As a whole performance Flow never really makes its intentions clear, but there’s no denying the obvious enjoyment both the dancers and audience get out of it.
Flow is at The Print Room until 23 February. For more information and to book tickets, visit The Print Room website.