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Henri Oguike Dance Company

Little Red / Touching All / All Around / Green in Blue

Orquestra do Algarve/Cesário Costa with Gonçalo Pescada accordion
Iain Bellamy & colleagues

Luis Tinoco - Antipode
Piazzolla/Mikirtoumov Quatro Estaniones

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 12 March 2008

There was a real buzz in the foyer before this extravaganza, a three-hour long cornucopia of contemporary dance and music by an important company whose work we first got to know at Laban in 2004.

The £3.50 tour programme book was not easy to sort out; this evening began with an orchestral "overture" by Luis Tinoco* **, a characterful and rhythmic piece played by the splendid Orquestra do Algarve at the back of the large stage; some of us were expecting the dancers to come on...

The orchestra then showed its mettle in a stylish account of Vivaldi's violin concertos RV 576 & 319 given live (not recorded as per the programme book!) to accompany Oguike's six female dancers in Little Red, establishing for us Oguike's dance vocabulary which explores all bodily possibilities without prettifying or exploiting eroticism in the intimate athletic couplings. Knees are often shown akimbo, movements are jerky, angular and postures extreme. The floor is of essential importance in the movements which are delivered with rapidity after still pauses, like releasing the energy in coiled springs; there are no props and no need of them. It is a consistent and completely individual dance language which one 'learns' throughout the evening.

The always eye-catching cover girl (from the tiny postage stamp pictures in the artiss' listing my wife thinks she might be Laura Nunez) deserves her prominent publicity; that impossible looking pose was in fact characteristic of her amazing flexibility, repeatedly astonishing us, with an edge of precision that made her always the focus of attention...

As a dance accompaniment the unamplified orchestra had made for ideal balance; this company has featured live music in our other sightings of them at Laban and at QEH, where we had cause to complain about over-amplification. The newish items Touching All / All Around had a great deal to commend them, but the totality was jeoparised by what I had previously characterised as this company's Achilles Heel, manifested again in Touching All by the loud transmission of three 'lutes' (ouds, of course) from speakers to left and right (we could only hear the right-hand ones though we had excellent seats in the central block). The first track seemed to be transmitted from a scratchy disc, the others might have been digital recordings. It would have been lovely with live oud playing on stage... All Around to recorded Pueblo albums seemed a little over-long, especially in the whole evening's context.

The orchestra had a long Piazzolla sequence which was generally pleasing to hear, though possibly overstaying its welcome? Gonçalo Pescada played his accordion (not a bandoneon) with great sensitivity and even stayed for an encore, helping to push the evening half an hour beyond the scheduled finishing time, which contributed to the departure of many audience members before Iain Bellamy’s jazz-based Green in Blue which, for us, was in any case the weakest item of the evening.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall was not much more than half-full, so I guess there'll be a lot of seats available for the second performance tonight. Despite our reservations, we recommend it as an unusual evening with a great deal to enjoy and remember.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* Luis Tinoco
P.S. A welcome "spin-off" from this event was to meet Luis Tinoco there; he was understandably a little unhappy with the arrangements for presenting his work to less than best advantage; he has since sent me a quite excellent CD of his chamber works which had completely passed me by, including a marvellous piece of contemporary story-telling programme music, based upon a famous incident in England, 1998, when two pigs became news of the week by escaping from a slaughter-house...
If this CD wasn't a best-seller, the marketing people fell down on their job. A fine disc from beginning to end, ignored by most of the press
- q.v. Robert Matthew-Walker [Editor] [Lorelt LNT121]

**The Galliard Ensemble gave a satisfying, well balanced programme of Portuguese wind quintets, replicated in their generously filled disc; they must be congratulated on exploring this field, initially with the encouragment of Luis Tinoco.- - This whole event, supported by the Gulbenkian Foundation, confirms my experience on our travels to European festivals that every country has music and composers undeserving of the obscurity in UK which is their all too common fate, that so because of nationalistic preoccupations amongst concert organisers.- - These national festivals, whether here or abroad, are opportunities for meeting and meeting again. From Luis Tinoco I was pleased to receive an impressive orchestral work, which shows that he is comfortable with larger canvases - too expensive to bring those to UK, but perhaps one day Tinoco's Round Time too may become available on commercial CD?
[Tinoco Light - Distance etc Deux Elles DXL 1084]