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Sinfonia Eroica




Malcolm Tay






Esplanade Theatre



Wet and Wild

A pedestrian casualness pervades the patterns and steps in Sinfonia Eroica, which Belgian choreographer Michèle Anne De Mey first made in 1990 for herself and the six other dancers who formed her then-new dance group in Brussels. This 2006 restaging for nine dancers from Charleroi/Danses, the company she has co-directed for the past two years, is a mostly engaging study of group dynamics and courtship, oddly affecting in parts and marked by unstressed virtuosity and easy chemistry among the cast.

While the 80-minute piece is named after its main musical inspiration, Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, the taped score also features the overture from Mozart's 1768 singspiel Bastien and Bastienne - the melody of which has an eerie resemblance to the Beethoven - and rocker Jimi Hendrix's Foxy Lady. The music juts in and out of blocks of silence, as the performers mess with the sound system in full view, pausing and switching tracks midway.

That's the thing about the show's workaday world, which stretches to the furthest wall of the stripped-bare stage: everything is revealed. The inner wiring and Fresnels are exposed to us so the dancers have no wings in which to hide, getting on and off stage via doors that everyone can see.

At the heart of visual artist Michel Thuns' stark set, however, stands a makeshift flying fox, which the dancers use to sail across the space while gripping a small handle.

The everyday elegance of the scenography matches the movement here, a basic palette of gestures that unfold and return to the body with little fuss or flourish, as well as locomotive steps that take off with little preparation or skid loudly into the ground. The dancers respond to the choreography with an offhand air; even their more taxing stunts - including handstands and jumps from all fours - are jauntily shrugged off, mingling with moments of laid-back contact with one another.

What flowers from their interaction as a group is sometimes funny, even absurd. When six of them sit on the floor in a row with their backs facing us, they're suddenly racing upstage on their buttocks; one dancer turns race commentator and watches them "competing for the best ass" from the side. This same performer later gets drawn into solo tennis practice, shunning the shower of oncoming balls as best as he can. Enter a tennis ball the size of a watermelon, and the scene swiftly shifts to a penalty kick, with a second dancer rolling up his pants to play the goalkeeper.

From these encounters, couples pair up and part ways, changing mates along the way. Men and women dance for one another in their own idiosyncratic styles, chatting intimately and sharing lifts bubbling with sexual tension. Sometimes they horse around on the flying fox, which leaves one person vulnerable to the other party. In one instance, a woman slides down the cable only to be pushed back up by her partner, who brings her down and wraps her in a long, passionate kiss.

The show threatens to flatline when their constant couplings seem to head nowhere, but thankfully, the youthfully insouciant dancers help it reach a stirring finish. By the end, they're splashing each other with buckets of water and gliding across the wet floor with slippery ease: one big emotional release.

"A mostly engaging study of group dynamics and courtship, oddly affecting in parts and marked by unstressed virtuosity and easy chemistry among the cast"


Choreography: Michèle Anne De Mey

Assistants to Michèle Anne De Mey: Gregory Grosjean, and Johanna O'Keefe

Assistant and Music Advisor: Thierry De Mey

Performers: Ilse Ghekiere, Géraldine Fournier, Mylèna Leclercq, Eléonore Valère, Gabriella Iacono, Sandy Williams, Stefan Baier, Adrien le Quinquis, Gabor Varga

Scenography: Michel Thuns

Lighting: Simon Siegmann

Costumes: Isabelle Lhoas

More Reviews by Malcolm Tay

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.