News & Blogs

26 May 2022
Author: Isaac Ouro-Gnao & Iris Kilian

Wed 25 May: Christine Sollie/SLiDE Collective/Grand Gesture

Christine Sollie Tracing Waves

SLiDE Collective Crosswor(l)ds

Grand Gesture Coming of Age

In Tracing Waves, Christine Sollie creates a world of water that envelops the auditorium. Xavier Velastin’s beautifully rich sound design echoes droplets, waves, and rushes of liquid as fans and speakers dotted around the edge of the stage interact with large silver mylar foils that ripple and rustle. The textures are brilliant. In the programme notes, Sollie invites us to listen ‘beyond the visual’, which is challenging as some moments of choreography are striking – the shifting of foil over her body reminiscent of Loie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance. Although the work’s length feels gratuitous at times, causing moments to tip into monotony, there are incredible ideas at play.

SLiDE Collective’s Crosswor(l)ds follows boldly. The score booms on, (perhaps because of the preceding work I wish it was louder!) and the dancers fly out the gates to match its energy. William Colgate skirts across the stage at high speeds as Aaron Baksh navigates the space slowly. It feels like a game of gentle tag between brothers, gentle as when the two come together fluid motions and tense contractions are held before moving onto new spaces. It’s a shame these meetings are largely left for the ending as it’s here that the work thrives. As the work develops, these rich moments of tenderness and chaos can only benefit from further exploration.

Grand Gesture’s Coming of Age is formed around Phyllis McCormack’s poem Crabbit Old Woman, and questions ageism. “When I think about my youth, it’s so easy to forget” is a repetitive narrated motif that is reflected in playful and evocative ways. In one scene, three dancers (Charlie Blair, Mary Cox, and  Andy Newman) in pyjamas transform into children and chase, run, and dance together. The score at this point could have been anyone of the current popular cartoons, but my mind screamed Pocoyo! It’s a fun, nostalgic moment and calls to mind the ‘kid at heart’ idiom. Another moment sees the older dancers, Cox and Newman, in a tender embrace after a swooning ballroom-inspired duet, only to be later interrupted and kept apart in a nursing home. Coming of Age tells me that it’s easy to not only remember youth, but to keep living it in spirit. Sadly, many societal barriers get it in the way.

Isaac Ouro-Gnao


Tonight, we’re prompted to take notice of the overlooked, to experiment and stay playful.

The setup is simple: mylar foil and speakers, but listen closely to uncover the singular aural experience of Tracing Waves. Foil rustles in the breeze and Christine Sollie, drifting around the stage, ruffles the sheets underfoot. The choreography of sound, waves of basses and raindrops, is subtle and effective, although moving speakers around to shift our perception doesn't completely deliver. The imagery is striking – in the most effective moment, an abstract kinetic sculpture emerges, foil unfolding and coming alive in slo-mo – but the floaty choreography feels somewhat expected. This still seems like research in progress to be tightened up, but Sollie pulls you in – there’s a magnetic quality in her intense, unnerving, blank stare.

The personalities of the performers in Crosswor(l)ds shine through, and their joy in dancing is so communicative you have to admire the work that’s done by SLiDE (South London inclusive Dance Experience), where dancers of diverse abilities come together to create. Aaron Baksh undulates, all fluid lines and balances, while William Colgate, in angles and leaps, works close to the floor. They are worlds colliding on stage, and what happens here is a true collaboration, a showcase of their individualities as they take inspiration from one other. Even if floor phrases and contact retain some of the improvisational chaos, the performers are really going for it, occupying the space, and the result is playful and sweet. You’re reminded that dance is a medium for encounters, where you communicate and experience others in new, physical, ways.

With Coming of Age, we’re celebrating the joys and sorrows of ageing, in a playful display of its older performers enduring passion for dance. Adding a young member to their cast, Grand Gesture  looks at intergenerational interactions – shared experiences and transmission through the sweet mimesis of Mary Cox and Charlie Blair, but also the cruel disdain of society that makes older people feel invisiable and discarded. You never stop being a dancer, and when their bodies tire, the performers take a theatrical break before exploding with energy again. They’ve still got moves!

Iris Kilian


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