Reune x Sadler’s Wells

Words by India Berry.

Reune – an evening of live performance and film produced by Emma Farnell-Watson and Joshua James Smith – was a night that brought a collective of dance performances and short films together at Sadler’s Wells, intertwined in order to capture audience’s attentions at every moment. Works that were inspiring, heartbreaking, futuristic and funny graced the stage, and each received a deservingly tremendous round of applause from audience members. The common theme of the evening was using bodily expression to portray concepts or emotions that are so much larger than words.

The feature to open the night, The Goldfish, had dancer Aishwarya Rust convey the frustrated and claustrophobic feelings of struggling with mental health, while her partner, the silent and mainly stationary Edwin Louis played the role of her self-control. A visually stunning film, akin to Wes Anderson style direction complete with Disneyland-esque train station waiting room as the set and an eye-catching Molly Goddard ensemble worn by Aishwarya, the night was off to a strong start. 

On to the introduction of the live dances was the performance Slice, which reminded me just how incredibly human bodies are capable of moving, as dancers Hannah Ekholm and Faye Stoeser were constantly intertwined through movement. When not physically connected, as they were most of the dance, the dancers were completely synchronised, hypnotising the audience with their on-the-beat movements. 

Tulips, performed by Edd Arnold and Will Thompson, was my personal favourite of all the live dances, as it expressed the dynamic intricacies of (not necessarily romantic) male relationships. The intimacy between the two dancers was portrayed through mesmerising movements that mimicked the blooming and closing of tulips, made all the more personal to audience members through prolonged periods of silence throughout the dance. 

Films in the first act included dances from Reune co-founders Joshua James Smith and Emma Farnell-Watson. Starring in In/Between, Joshua exceptionally displayed human emotion, from anger to exhaustion, and it invited the viewers to explore the story from the dancer’s point of view. Emma’s performance in Breathe, as a busy working woman in London who found a moment alone to breathe – or in her case, dance – demonstrated the need to escape from the demanding pressures of city life. Emma gave an excellent performance, and kudos to director Joe Connor for finding the quietist road in central London to film on. 

Celine Fortenbacher’s Putzi, provided some comic relief to round off Act I. A hilarious performance was given by Celine of an alien-like character playing a real-life version of the living room game The Floor is Lava in order to get to what can only be described as the bright, shiny thing hanging from the ceiling. When she finally uses up an obscene amount of tin foil to reach it, she almost immediately drops it. The message? Despite all our efforts to control it, life is precious and unpredictable, so don’t spend too much time faffing over it. 

The first film following the intermission was What Lies Beyond, which left me and – judging from the sniffles I heard around me – the audience in tears. A documentary style piece, we meet two dancers dealing with the loss of their family members. We are shown how they use dance to express the emotions they cannot bear to talk about, which inspires loud physical and audible movements from both of them. A truly impactful film to watch.

Shokirie Clarke & MOVES Studio.

Death of the Bachelors featured Nahum McLean and Mukeni New dancing to seventies groove and funk music. A more theatrical piece, the dancers conveyed a story of two men reflecting on their bachelor lives. An extremely enjoyable performance to watch, they even had the audience dancing in their seats, itching to join in on the fun. 

Two dystopian-style pieces followed, the film A Part of You and the dance In All Black, Nothings Began to Spin. A Part of You was incredible to watch, and dancer and writer Kibrea Carmichael did an excellent job of creating two versions of herself, one who is vulnerable to her future, and the other who manages to be intimidating and creepy yet awe-inspiring at the same time. With killer costumes and amazing filming locations, as well as phenomenal movement and words from Kibrea, this was one of my favourite films of the night.

In All Black, Nothings Began to Spin, Aurora Castori and Seirian Griffiths were in constant motion with one another, either feeding off each others movements or perfectly in-sync. Despite it being a contemporary piece, the dance was almost theatrical in the way that it carried across a story-line. 

To close off the show, Benjamin Jonsson premiered his film Tension and Release, a captivating exploration into the intimacy of queer relationships. With dancers tangling their bodies with one another to create tension, and then with a liberating movement, release. This film was akin to a fashion film, with runway beats blaring, model stares from the dancers, high fashion ensembles worn throughout, and quick cut editing that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. 

The collective showcased emerging and growing talent in the community, demonstrating the creativity and skill of the London contemporary dance scene. Giving these dancers, filmmakers, writers, and choreographers a space to display their artistry in the heart of one of the industry’s most famous venues, Reune is a catalyst for growth in awareness of the scene and I hope to see more performances from them soon.