I always feel like the man on the Clapham Omnibus when seeing a new company for the first time - especially when it's modern dance and expectations are primarily down to flyers and other notes which often feature rather colourful language and images. So I now generally work on the premise that I turn up, read something of the programme, depending on time, and see what happens. And I guess this is the way for more than a few in the audience.
And I also have something of a cunning plan... I figure that if it is truly horrid then I can always skip off after the first interval - usually having rewarded myself with a stiff drink first. Alas the concept of an interval is often not favoured in modern dance and as I entered Sadler's Wells it was at the back of my mind that if it was horrid I was trapped for all 100 minutes of it. Of course I was more buoyant than that, but there was a nagging fear there because 100 minutes of bad dance is infinitely worse than 100 minutes of bad ballet.
La La La Human Steps are Canadian and as usual there were a fair few of the home team in the audience, plus Canadian business was doing lots of corporate entertaining. In 'Salt' the flyers promised ".. a cascading series of lyrical and intense pas de deux..." and there were pointe shoes on the girls even...
What we got was an entertaining production that was approaching 60 minutes too long. If it had run for 30-40 minutes, we could have had an interval and seen another facet of the company's work. As it was there was tremendous repetition to not much effect. Strangely I wasn't bored stiff and aching to leave, rather I drifted into thinking about this and that while my eyeballs got a bit of a massage.
The production is very moody - black leotards / trousers and black space predominate, lit by pools of light that follow or lead the dancers here or there. And there are some video clips of a child, a wanton girl and a bottom (or possibly a marrowfat pea) that appeared to a heartbeat. They did not really seem to add much.
Three musicians are on stage - piano, electric guitar and cello - sometimes playing together, sometimes not, and definitely part of the overall performance. The music itself was often loud, percussive and minimalist. And there was a 60's throwback with guitar doing a feedback noise solo...
But the overwhelming thing is the speed of the dancers, of the girls particularly - legs whip this way and that and so fast that you get a stroboscopic effect. It's on pointe shoes and there are balletic movements but this is straying towards Forsythe and indeed in the middle there is a short section that you might swear was choreographed by the man himself. But speed - what the company is noted for - is not enough on its own and overall the choreography is not up to Frankfurt standards at all. It's not annoying but it runs out of ideas and the pdd and solos are pleasant, mostly fast but not so moving either technically or emotionally. I guess what might have been a strongish short piece is a rather mediocre long piece.
The dancers were entertaining and clearly skilled - a shame then that we got lots of the same rather than a mix (and an interval!).