Gandini Juggling: Life review – a joyous love letter to Merce Cunningham | Mime
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As niches go, a work that combines a tribute to the great American choreographer Merce Cunningham with juggling is particularly narrow. Yet the strange thing about Life, which launched the London International Mime Festival last week, shows how universal and global it is.
For my part, I am not a fan of mime or circus. I have always admired the works of the Cunninghams more than I loved them. Yet this act of affection is surreal and joyful.
Its pivots are Gandini Juggling founders Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala, who seem enamored with the mathematical and philosophical purity of juggling, and Jennifer Goggans, a former Cunningham dancer who learned to juggle. The resulting piece recreates excerpts from the choreographer’s works and his distinctive style, but with the twist that balls, hoops and clubs cut through the air to add their own parables, climbs and geometric lines to his crisp leaps and bowed limbs.
Accompanied by music by Caroline Shaw and sublimely simple lighting by Guy Hoare, Life has a serene beauty, a geometric poetry, which satisfies the eye and dazzles the mind. For starters, it’s all fast-moving, white balls shooting upwards in a seemingly odd motion; later, the dancers freeze in groups in slow motion, their intricate movements working like an elaborate machine.
At one point, Gandini stops the action with a hazard of which Cunningham would have been proud, to explain that they are preparing to recreate such and such a piece. A performer demonstrates the original version; two men stand together to create a four-handed creature to elaborate on the theme.
There is pure delight in the ingenuity of it all; the performers are uniformly piercing, their smiles utterly contagious. It’s a great way to start the year.
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