Overflow ★★★ Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue | May 21 & 22, 2021


Overflow is a seventy minute fusion of dance, sound and light by the Alexander Whitley Dance Company. This choreographer's earlier works include 8 Minutes and commissions for The Royal Ballet among others, Here, however, he is investigating the full panoply of multimedia creativity. Whitley and his team use a light sculpture, in the form of a strip-light, which oscillates, rises and falls above the stage; the brightness of this installation distracts from the work of the six dancers who writhe and swirl, often deep in the shadows. The power of technology and the influences of social control seem to be major themes of the work but with so much wreathed in smoke and near darkness it becomes difficult to see the performers and grasp the meaning with any certainty. In black costumes and with only their arms and heads visible much of the detail is lost. Dancers apparently wore specially created face masks which remained invisible. One is tempted to wonder if all this was quite as Whitley originally intended. Pulsating computer generated sounds created an interesting soundscape which strangely morphed into the occasional waltz-like rhythm and even a South American ambiance, perhaps unintentionally redolent of Robert North's Troy Game. At an hour and a quarter the piece did rather outstay its welcome with several false endings. There were certainly some striking images and the dancers deserve the highest praise for the tremendous feat of learning such complicated choreography, but one only could wish more of it were fully visible.

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Johan Persson.

Rated: ★★★

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