Watching Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and María Pagés performing together is like observing two people speaking different languages, yet understanding each other.
A Belgian of Moroccan origin, Cherkauoi is one of the most eclectic dancers and choreographers on the contemporary dance scene. The charming and highly skilled Sevillan artist María Pagés is renowned for bringing Flamenco to new audiences through her innovative approach to this traditional art form. In 2009 these two talents came together to create Dunas, a blended piece of flamenco, contemporary dance, music and visual art, which eventually came to London last week for a short run at Sadler’s Wells.
Dunas is a piece of extreme visual power achieved through the simplest of means: light, sand and bare cloth. The aesthetically charged experience conveyed by a seductive lighting and floating masses of malleable sheets, is further enhanced by the multi-faceted talent of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Fully ambidextrous, he simultaneously uses both his hands to draw patterns on the sand, projected on the background as though they were stemming from María Pagés’ arms. He fights with his own shadow and lets his body revolve into smooth contortions reminiscent of central European dance motifs mainly coming from Alain Platel and the late William Forsythe.
Also extremely charming is Pagés, as she grips the audience with a combination of technically astonishing flamenco footwork and relentless energy impetuously running into her arms through to her fingertips.
Just like sand runs through a time glass, this piece acts as a constant reminder of the inescapable sense of caducity that frustrates every human being. As Cherkaoui and Pagés cling to each other’s bodies, theirs appears to be the ultimate attempt to redeem the transient nature of human beings. The urgency of the now, made stronger by the awareness of a nearing end, also resonates in the original score by Szymon Brzoska and Rubén Lebaniegos, while the music evokes cultural influences as diverse as the heritages carried by the dancers.
The intensity with which anguish, passion, longing, attachment and abandonment vibrate into Pagés and Cherkaoui’s bodies would make you think that this is the last chance they have to express such feelings, and dance the most eloquent means to do so. Writer and radio presenter Garrison Keillor once said that ‘poetry is heightened speech’. This certainly holds true for dance.
5 – 7 May 2011, run over.