Walking out of the Southbank Centre on Friday night, I realised I had brought with me certain prejudices about dance and particularly ballet that I don’t take to theatre. With theatre, different venues have reputations for taking certain types of production, and commissioning directors who keep to the writer’s script or create an - off-beat or surprising adaptation. But aside from plays and theatre groups I am already familiar with, judgements are left at home. Afterall, why shackle oneself to an idea of what a production could or should be, when it might bring something entirely unexpected? Do I give dance the same freedom to surprise, delight and horrify? Reader, I do not. I expect to feel - I realised - impressed, amazed by a quick foot, a pirouette or a dedicated jump when a dancer soars through the air. Moved by the heartbreak of a thwarted couple, their love dashed and disappointed. One’s heart can fly when we witness two dancers in an embrace at the Royal Opera House or the Nutcracker twirl beyond comprehension at the ENO. But shocked, scandalised, amazed by the sheer rawness of the jealousy before us? No, this came as a surprise. In great theatres of our institutions, perhaps I expect the sexual element of a couple’s relationship will be suggested, not shown. Well, as my companion commented, “We can always trust the French to mix things up a bit”. 

That they certainly did. Dance troupe (LA)HORDE has been on the cultural scene for longer than you may realise, however. They have recently been working with Sam Smith, tasked with shaking up the performer’s dance videos. The group’s choreography on Smith’s tracks, combined with some latex outfits, have broken the star free of a previously vanilla reputation. The group is a combination of the creative talents of Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer and Arthur Harel. Inspired by film, club culture and art, the work is often on pointe but rebellious and quite different to any dance I’ve seen before (that’s a compliment, even though I adore all types of dance and ballet including the traditional kind). 

All of the dances suggest themes of jealousy, desire and the search for pleasure and pain. One is grime-inspired, in another a cloud of smoke envelops the stage and a couple - both almost naked - contort and snake around each other until other people arrive on the stage to become rivals. Izzac Carroll and Sarah Abicht are mesmerising and electric - and they disappear into the smoke and out again as though from a Tarantino film. 

A male duet was also brilliant and moving. Named Les Indomptés (The Untamed) it was choreographed by Claude Brumachon and Benjamin Lamarche in 1992 and performed on Friday by Jonathan Myhre Jorgensen and Titouan Crozier. A lovesong for the people who died from AIDS is very moving, a real feeling of longing and youthfulness. 

This dance troupe really brought something new into my understanding of dance and what is achievable without any words. I would see it all again tomorrow if I could. 


Review: Caiti Grove          Photo: Thierry Hauswald