Putting joy back into January
“Dance like no one is watching” or “cast of thousands” are two clichés that could be used in a review of Let’s Move, but Sylvain Groud and Ballet du Nord have put on something refreshingly different.
Five dancers, five musicians, and more than 60 amateurs from Luxembourg form part of this participative performance, which was rehearsed over just three weekends. It takes in familiar songs from popular musicals in what feels like a hark back to the old music hall and vaudeville days, with plenty of encouragement for the audience to participate.
Let’s Move opens with an almost empty stage. Dancers and musicians, bearing flashlights on their heads, appear in the audience, whispering and clicking their fingers to the opening beats of the Jets from the musical West Side Story. Slowly, they populate the stage.
By mixing his performers with the audience, Groud is inviting everyone to be carried away with the pleasure of humming, singing tunes, and dancing. In several of the songs, throngs of “lay” dancers fill the aisles, encouraging those seated to get up and move to the Latin beats of the song America (West Side Story), or hum along to Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary Poppins.
Let’s Move is also about letting go. Whilst the additional amateur dancers are choreographed to some extent, it is not about precision and exactness. In groups, led by a professional dancer, they travel across the stage with set, repetitive movements, but every person is unique in the way they interpret or perform these.
When the dancers burst from the stage into the aisles, they often break into ad lib or freeform dance, and that is when the letting go happens. Some are shy, but some, quite frankly, should consider a job as a professional dancer that is how good they are. There are young men, older women, and amateur performers of all ages, shapes and sizes.
The Luxembourg Times’ own gardening columnist Faye Peterson was amongst those on stage. She said after the first show, that “the whole project was the perfect antidote to the January blues. Meeting people, having new experiences and learning new skills to the backdrop of upbeat music. I have a new found respect for performers. The whole process takes so much energy and their patience in teaching us the dance moves was phenomenal.”
The choreography is a little set – on stage, then into the aisles, then back on stage, groups breaking off, people dancing together - but to have that many people performing at one time is quite a feat, and must have its limitations.
There are some unusual touches too, including the sea of pulsating umbrellas at the end of Singing in the Rain, or the slightly comical way in which the singers of Tonight (West Side Story) are spun around the stage on mobile mini stages, reminiscent of a fairground ride. How they sing, whilst being jerked and pulled across the stage is quite astonishing.
Simple costumes, such as colourful jackets or skirts (the latter worn by both men and women) help the segway from song to song, whilst the trombone, tuba, trumpet, accordion, and pianist, play calmly amongst the chaos of movement on stage. The lighting too is fast moving, conjuring up the image of the dark interior of a cabaret club, or the strobe lighting of a warehouse rave.
But perhaps what is most striking is the joy of the performers. You can palpably see on their faces that for many, this was a resolution or a lifetime ambition, and they are going to enjoy every moment of "their fifteen minutes of fame".
You cannot help but Let the Sunshine In, when they reach the finale, and rise to applaud them.
You can watch (and take part in) Let’s Move on 28 January at 20.00, at the Grand Théâtre.
The Luxembourg Times has a new mobile app, download here! Get the Luxembourg Times delivered to your inbox twice a day. Sign up for your free newsletters here.