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The Tower Festival and Sadler’s Wells present


Sadler’s Wells is Dance


Dance companies:


Tamara Rojo



Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company



Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag



Richard Alston Dance Company





Septr 11, 2009








ary Couzens

A review by Chad Armitstead for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Clothed in a history-dampening ethereal purple glow, the walls of the Tower preside over the dramatic digs of the Tower Festival.  Bulging with sponsors, vendors and festival-goers, the Tower moat actually feels quite welcoming in a swords-beaten-into-plough-shares kind of way. 

Dance bastion Sadler’s Wells presented Friday night’s bill.  It was an evening of electric virtuosity, elegant spectacle and unabashed fun.  Each night of the festival is a unique event, and this is what you would have seen had you been there Friday.

Upon entering the concert area, purple glow fades to red and a giant eye-shaped stage gapes at the audience, waiting to light up.  The ‘house’ lights go down and silent anticipation replaces the crowd’s chatter.  Stripped naked of any accompaniment other than a soft tap, Paco Peña’s mournful, tribal, soul-splitting voice breaks the silence and has the audience rapt in its passionate thrall.  Singing somewhere between desperation and madness, Peña moves his flamenco dancers like marionettes on guitar strings and vocal cords.   His performers embody the sensual arrogance of flamenco with straight and proud lines while Peña pushes his voice to tatters.

After Peña’s explosive opener, a dancer sits opposite the guitarist holding castanets.  The two proceed to have a musical conversation.  It’s a machine-gun barrage of thrill and tenderness, and though the only sounds are nylon strings and castanets, the magnetic tension between them makes you sure that you know what the conversation is about.

Peña’s dancers are no more or less than what you might expect from flamenco.  It’s their combination, with Peña and his guitarists that makes the experience singular.  While the musicians play, the dancers are as much part of the music as they are reacting to it.  Clicking wooden soles on the floor, they are percussion as well as dancers.  All the while they exude that knowing flamenco attitude that says ‘I know every eye is on me—and it damn well should be.’  It might be because of this attitude that flamenco duets almost seem to be the opposite of a co-dependent relationship.  Each dancer seems to know they are too good for the other.  But they’re drawn together by some compelling primal magnetism despite themselves.

Carried up and down the necks of guitars, Peña’s show has a graceful, frenetic momentum.

Next in the line-up, Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag command the stage with an intertwined dynamism in their ballroom dance numbers.  At one point turning the walls of the Tower into romantic, starry skies, they transform the sensuality of Tango into grandiose spectacle, performing it to “O Fortuna”from Carmina Burana.  And of course Boag dances through tango, foxtrot, quickstep and waltz in stunning ball-gown elegance.

Ballerina Tamara Rojo’s virtuosic steel-pin discipline reminds you of what great ballet aspires to be.  Together with Bennet Gartside, her first duet, Consolation, gives living, breathing form to the insistent tenderness of Liszt’s “Consolation No. 3.”  In both this and her later duet with Romel Frometa, Rojo’s form is unfailingly exquisite.  Relentlessly maintaining straight lines, at one point she stands on one toe and freezes for an excruciating amount of time, her other leg suspended behind her.  Not a shake, not a wobble, not a break in her line.  And not a breath from the audience until she finally released.  Even if you see vast amount of world-class ballet, it’s safe to say you may never see a dancer with more control or more accomplished technique.

Street dance group Bounce, straight from the hardened streets of Sweden, brought some welcome levity to the evening.  The cheeky Swedes interrupted their first pop-lock/boogaloo/new school set with a tongue-in-cheek ballet, a sort of back-handed love note to their more rigid festival counterparts.  They got the audience on their feet to teach them how to dance to jazz, metal, techno, and that all-important mainstay Swedish folk. 

An infectious energy saturates Bounce’s mesmeric choreography.  There’s a sort of hypnotic compulsion that holds your gaze when you watch good street dance.  Its loose precision projects a sort of boastful control over the body.  The dancer can go from ragdoll to robot in a moment.  Bounce’s playful execution exposes the body’s puppet-like nature and asserts the street dancer as its master. 

The Richard Alston Dance Company began with To Dance and Skylark, a piece filled with playful camaraderie that felt like a celebration of life.  A contemporary company, their choreography hinges on a mastery of ballet and the more open expression of many forms of modern dance. 

Festivals being what they are, you can’t catch the exact same evening again.  But if Friday night is any indicator, London can count on the Tower Festival to be a diverse showcase of international excellence in the arts.  If nothing else, the festival will certainly make you see the Tower in a new light.

Tickets:  £27.50-£50


Tickets on sale to person callers at:
Group Ticket Office
Tower of London
Tower Hill
London EC3N 4AB

10.00am - 4.00pm daily

Branches of HMV as follows
London - 150 Oxford St, 360 Oxford St, Trocadero, Covent Garden, Hammersmith, Islington, Westfield Shopping Centre, Bluewater Shopping Centre, Croydon
Birmingham - High St
Edinburgh - Princes St
Aberdeen - Union St

Tickets available by credit card from the following agents:
Ticketmaster 0844 847 2519
See Tickets 0871 230 1080
Ticketline 0844 8889991
Keith Prowse (Seatem) 0844 2090335

WOMAD 0845 146 1735

For official hospitality packages, please call
AOK Events 020 8222 8420

The festival is an open air event and will go ahead regardless of bad weather.







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