Borderline at the Sadler’s Wells
The Breakin’ Convention festival aims to support hip-hop dance and introduce it to new audiences by encouraging the artists of this dance form to showcase their work in a theatrical setting. Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang have created a piece that not only presents b-boying in a new context but also manages to merge it smoothly and elegantly with contemporary dance. Combining dance forms is always a gamble as the shifts from one style to the other can become discordant and fail to give full expression to either form. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see the duo find the exact meeting point between the two different energies and create a harmonious union.
The distinctive feature of Borderline is the use of aerial rigging, which allows the dancers to be elevated in the air as the rigger – who is present on stage – pulls up the cable that holds them around the waist. This gravity-defying component allows plenty of room for play: once the dancer is free from the downward pulling force, the possibilities increase exponentially. The choreography can surprise the viewer as the dancers rise and fall unexpectedly, or suspend their jumps mesmerisingly. The resistance created as they pull against the wires creates a slow motion effect that leaves the audience transfixed and gives a different quality to the movements.
The presence of the rigger himself on stage indicates that the intent is not to create an illusion, but that it is rather an interest in the counterbalancing act and the harmonious cooperation between rigger and dancer, who must communicate with each other through the pull of their weights and make known their mutual awareness through the wire. Apart from a focus on connection as a general theme, there is no central message to the piece, but a variety of thoughts and images, mostly related to social boundaries, that will evoke different feelings for each viewer.
Borderline’s chief achievement is the grace with which it draws and combines elements from two different dance forms without making the experiment look unnatural. There is also an evident theatrical tone conveyed through the play of light and darkness, the occasional verbal interventions and choreographies giving clues about the nature of the relationship between performers. The aerial element adds some magic, too, because rather than bring to mind circus feats, it is evocative of puppetry. Overall, the show is a flowing sequence of movements and moments that engages visually as well as emotionally.
Borderline is on at the Sadler’s Wells on 2nd and 3rd October 2015, for further information or to book visit here.