As one of two UK premiers, Icon is performed at Sadler’s Wells in London for the very first time. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Anthony Gormley’s Icon is a collaboration of richly, detailed exuberance, where the dancers sculpt three and a half tonnes of clay into a spiritual dance that both creates and destroys. Performed by the companies Eastman and GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, 18 superb dancers describe a beautifully, elaborate yet excessive world that is strikingly familiar to our own.
Icon is Sidi Larbi’s second creation on GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. The show begins with the intriguing charm of small clay statues placed across the stage. That intriguing charm doesn’t last for long as the dancers’ enthralling entrance disrupts, tumbles and quite literally stamps out all of the statues into clay remains. Sidi Larbi and Anthony Gormley have always been able to transform sculptures into choreographic brilliance. In Icon, Gormley’s clay takes all manner of shapes including instruments, masks and statues. These clay shapes are treated as if they were promises and illusions as the clay is literally broken, dropped and destroyed before our eyes. Despite this, the audience are subjected to a spiritual purity, the kind that can only be seen in Sidi Larbi’s iconic, signature style of intricate hand gestures. These hand gestures are accompanied by a re-occurring, trance-like dialogue that is excellently spoken by the dancers on stage. Some notable performances include Kazutomi Kozuki, Verdiano Cassone and Patrick Williams who display an impressive lucidity with jaw-dropping details that awe their viewers.
Whilst, there is a seriousness embedded within Icon, its tone easily shifts into a bizarre and recognisable comedy. A humour that is shown in a wildly, sexual depiction of made-on-stage clay anatomy. This humour also makes its way into an oriental rendition of Sia’s pop song, Cheap Thrills. Here the dancers mime and socialise in an alternate everyday interaction, all whilst one dancer moves so effortlessly in a manner that is moulded like clay itself. The musicians are faintly visible and at home behind the minimal, understatement of the set. They create a unique fusion of Japanese, Korean, Arabic and medieval music. The singers of Icon eventually seize the limelight by coming onto the stage. This moment is an operatic cultural blend that so often weaves its way into Sidi Larbi’s performances.
Icon paints a rich tapestry that describes the essence of humans’ unpredictable and ritualistic worship. The energy never ceases to amaze.
Reviewed by Eleanor Sofflet