Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s and Yabin Wang’s Genesis is a piece on creation, nature and humanity. It aims to tackle several themes at once, investigating the DNA, observing the human body, and also inserting quite absurd parts of narrative that don’t seem to fit with the rest of the performance.
The stage is almost completely bare, with only a few Perspex boxes that the dancers slide around the stage, creating different spaces without disruption. The clinical setting allows the bodies to be in the spotlight, and Genesis really is a celebration of the body, the shapes it can create and the stories it can tell. The ensemble transitions effortlessly from sharp to soft, from static to fluid. As an audience member I would be happy to just watch these dancers move and find meaning in the absurd narrative, but unfortunately the performance often becomes too literal. For instance, when the dancers wear white masks and lab coats to make the medical setting blatantly clear, or when the dance is accompanied by one of the performers reading out information on DNA or quoting John from the Bible. The use of props also disrupt the flow and clean style of the performance, especially when the glowing glass globes are introduced, the kind you would find in circus shows. There is a lot going on here, maybe even too much; as we try to understand a certain concept, we are immediately introduced to the next one.
Still, the ensemble is incredibly strong; Kazutomi “Tsuki” Kozuki is especially mesmerising as a corpse on the autopsy table, starting with just subtle movements and escalating into a terrific crescendo. However, the true highlight for me was co-creator Yabin Wang, who moves with both tender smoothness and firm control. At one point she becomes a terrifying long-armed mutant, and still dances with grace. Each move feels fresh and deliberate, and her presence is so captivating that she manages to make a duet with her own hair fascinating.
Cherkaoui specifically travelled to the East to meet Wang and collaborate with her, and the result is a truly unique relationship between Belgian and Chinese companies, inspiring and influencing each other, arriving to a style that is certainly clean and polished. It is apparent they listen to each other and dance to a shared rhythm. Accompanied by a live band of a piano, guitar, Indian drums and a singer, the seven dancers perform this 85-minute-long piece with incredible precision and unrelenting stamina, but unfortunately Genesis lacks clarity and tries to juggle too many things at once.
Genesis 生长 is playing at Sadler’s Wells until 29 September . For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website.