Review: Isadora Now, Barbican

This show constantly gravitates between a tribute to Isadora Duncan and an adaptation of her heritage to today’s dance panorama. While in some moments the tribute feels absolutely pertinent, in some others it feels like an unjustified revival.

Isadora Now is divided into three parts, all of which are very different pieces. It’s good to see different approaches to Duncan’s work and how the same starting point can lead to several different outcomes. However, the parts are so disconnected that it feels like watching three distinct shows.

The first piece Dance of the Furies is captivating and promising. It works as a beautiful opening in which the mastery of the dancers is made clear and the power of having five women on stage is reiterated. 

Five Brahms Waltzes is the second piece, a solo performed beautifully by Begoña Cao accompanied by the remarkable pianist Anna Geniushene. Even though this piece seems perfectly executed as far as technique is concerned, it feels very dislocated from the Barbican context and from the show as an overall product. It’s a very dated piece, and as much as I realise that the purpose of it is exactly to give the audience a taste of what it was like to see an authentic Duncan performance, it just doesn’t feel right. 

The third and final piece, Unda, choreographed by Joy Alpuerto Ritter is absolutely marvellous. For 40 minutes the performers bare their souls and work together to transport the audience into a mystical, breath-taking environment. Everything about this piece is truly clever: the symbiosis and interactions between the performance, the way the space is occupied, the props used, the amazing costumes by Marie Cantenys Studio, the powerful lights by Fabiana Piccioli. 

There is, however, one element that deserves a special mention – the music. Lih Qun Wong presents a brilliant concept and an irreproachable performance. She allies the old art of playing a cello with the current possibilities that technology can bring into music and sound. The enormous possibilities that her music creates are a precious input in all the moments.. 

Overall, it is an interesting production but it feels a bit short and not very well linked.

Isadora Now played the Barbican until the 29 February. For more information, visit the Barbican website.