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Home > Culture and Society

TFT Goes To: Sadler's Wells

11 October 2005

Imagine you had a Swiss Army knife that you'd carried with you all your life but for some reason you'd only ever used it to hammer in nails and occasionally bludgeon tiny creatures into submission. Then suddenly you meet another person with a Swiss Army knife - someone who actually knows how to use it. You marvel as they run around the house, their knife a glinting kaleidoscope of extraordinary instruments and glorious achievements, and you realise how blind you've been. You look at your own knife, all battered and rusted shut, and you curse all those wasted opportunities. Well, that's exactly how this TFT contributor felt on Sunday night, having watched a performance called 'Push' at Sadler's Wells theatre. All my life I've been using my body to perform the dullest, most prosaic chores; just plodding through life, inspiring no-one - but now, thanks to Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant, I know just what the human body is capable of. Not mine of course. But still, my eyes have been opened.

'Push' consisted of four numbers, two solos from Guillem, one from Maliphant and a duet. Each number was wholly mesmerising. I had always been of the rather small-minded opinion that dance was not something that could move a person in the same way as words or music. 'Push' therefore, was a revelation. Imagine. A movement of the body having the same indefinable effect on the human heart as a lilt in a voice. A woman dancing so hypnotically that you begin to wonder how many arms she has. A man dancing with his own shadows, managing somehow to bring tears to your eyes.

Watching these two perfect specimens of human physicality brought to mind the ghastly memory of Barry Austin, Britain's Fattest Man, who graced our television screens the week before, courtesy of Sky One. It is almost impossible to believe that Barry Austin and Silvie Guillem are the same species. In the same way that Austin's deformed bulk gives rise to feelings of disgust and despair at the personal degradation of which human beings are capable, so Guillem and Maliphant have the opposite effect, making you smack your gob and rejoice, glorying in the breath-taking work of art we can make of our flesh and our bones. I say 'we'. Really I played little part. I did leave the theatre with a certain spring in my step, but sadly one can no more dance after a visit to Sadler's Wells than one can perform surgery after watching an episode of M*A*S*H. What I was left with however, was a long overdue appreciation of dance, and a renewed determination to join a gym. Maybe it's also time to give Michael Powell's 'The Red Shoes' another go. Maybe now I could finally understand it.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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