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Dance Me – Music by Leonard Cohen
Ballets Jazz Montreal, Sadlers Wells, London EC1
LEONARD COHEN’s rumbly bass, speak-singing his introspective yet transcendent poetry, has formed the backdrop of many a boomer’s social and solitary life. He was the butt of an Alexei Sayle routine: “Let’s all listen to some Leonard Cohen and go and kill ourselves.” Suzanne, with her “tea and oranges all the way from China,” serviced many a sensitive introvert’s evening in the 1960s and 1970s.
At Sadlers Well, London, Ballets Jazz Dance Montreal work through the Leonard Cohen playbook in Dance Me. As complex as the workings of a Swiss watch – yet not complicated – each song and poem is described by a dancing body, or pair of bodies, or a line up routine like synchronised swimmers, or a tableau.
It is sublime. Monochromatic and simple in its presentation, the poetry and choreography breathe together. This is not illustrative dance, but makes a beautiful whole as neither art form dominates. It plays against a superb scenography of light, shadow and film, reminiscent of a Bill Viola piece, that forms part of the whole.
Cohen himself advised and approved of the project before his death in 2016. He wryly observed that he could enjoy a “huge posthumous career” as director and dramaturge Eric Jean takes Cohen’s poetry and music, fused with dance, to new world audiences.
Choreographers Andonis Foniadakis, Annabel Lopez Ochoa and Ihsan Rustem bring forth the bodily magic of the 14 performing artists of Ballet Jazz Montreal as they perform songs including Suzanne — a stunning pas des deux — So Long Marianne, Famous Blue Raincoat, Tower of Song, Dance Me to the End of Love, A Thousand Kisses Deep and that much loved anthem Hallelujah.
So Long Marianne, both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, is lip-synched – but it works. Hallelujah is sung live with beauty and simplicity by dancers Hannah Kate Galbraith and Astrid Dangeard from the front of the stage.
Famous Blue Raincoat with principal dancer Yosmell Calderon Mejias (who doubles as Cohen himself, in fedora and dark suit) is pure theatre as a blue-lit flume of spiralling snowflakes describes the December New York of the song. But others will have their favourites.
This show will keep alive a body of music and poetry important to many – witness the nostalgic emotion beaming from many faces as the applause died down. This really was one of the fastest 80 minutes of my life. My boomer companion concurred.
Until February 14, Box office: https://www.sadlerswells.com/
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