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Young Associates- To Start With

Sadler’s Wells

26 October 2022

Reviewed by Mary Pat Robertson

Sadler’s Wells Theatre presented the four choreographers in their Young Associates programme at a one-night event on October 26.  The evening’s varied programme was greeted with high enthusiasm by a full house of mostly young dance students and dance-lovers.  

Each of the four choreographers (Olive Hardy, Vidya Patel, John-William Watson,  and Magnus Westwell) were mentored by Ben Duke, Artistic Director of Lost Dog, who wrote that each piece offered “an invitation to enter into an internal world and to see what lives and dances there.”

And what specific and intriguing worlds they were.  I was most drawn into the world that Vidya Patel created in Don’t Mind Me, a powerful dance, performed with intensity by her five dancers. The space was delineated strongly by Shankho Chaudhuri’s vertical pillars.  Don’t Mind Me presents dancer Dominic Coffey, in an emotionally wrenching performance, struggling to reintegrate mind and body after trauma.  All five of the dancers, supported by Shammi Pithia’s original score and Zia Ahmed’s text, turn in stunning performances.  Especially notable was Monique Jonas, and Aishani Ghosh in a superb bharatanatyam-influenced solo.  The grounded stances, intricate rhythms, and gestural force of this solo made it the central core around which the dance was organised. Patel created a complex, sophisticated work which would be well worth a second viewing. 

John-William Watson’s witty dance-theatre piece, Hang in There, Baby, posited a futuristic world where decisions could be gamed out in advance, using avatars.  Watson truly created a whole world for us to enter, an office holiday party that explores a potential avenue of alternative reality.  Watson not only devised the movement (with creative input from the performers), but also designed the sets and costumes.  Sound-artist and composer Adam Vincent Clarke collaborated with a varied and appropriately biting score.  

Extreme states defined the improvisation-based movement of Olive Hardy’s work, And I Know Nothing Again Once More. The dancers powerfully conveyed Hardy’s bleak look at a world of disaster and futility.  Sound artist Samir Kennedy’s work gave the dancers a strong base, and the striking costumes and fabric props were designed by India Ayles.

The final work on the programme immersed us in another fully-imagined world.  Magnus Westfall creates work which has been seen across a variety of platforms, ranging from clubs to festivals, galleries and theatres across Europe.  I liked Westfall’s statement about SUNDER, that they hoped in this dance to “offer a sonic, visual and physical” world for us to inhabit. This hope was abundantly fulfilled, starting with fog enveloping the audience, and then Westfall themself seen in the orchestra pit playing the prepared violin. Westfall composed the music for the dance, which included recorded segments on cello and sax.  The dancers moved mysteriously through a landscape illuminated with shafts of light and lasers, designed by Ryan Joseph Stafford.  Particularly striking was a recurring motif of two dancers locking arms and heads, reminiscent of young male deer fighting for dominance.  The striking costumes were styled by Marianthi Hatzikidi, who also works in the world of fashion.

The support given to these emerging artists by Sadler’s Wells is impressive and well-placed.  In addition to Duke’s guidance, each artist was given two mentors, and (I assume) free rehearsal space.  The programme, offered to young artists between the ages of 18-24, offers them two full years of training and professional development.  The opportunity to have that kind of support at a crucial moment in an emerging career is rare.  The culminating event itself is a golden opportunity for a young choreographer, to have one’s work presented on one of London’s premiere stages, with full technical and front of house support.  Bravo to all.  


Mary Pat Robertson is a choreographer, teacher, and dance writer newly transplanted to London from the US.