Review: The Merce Cunningham Dance Company 'Roaratorio' at the Barbican Theatre

October 15, 2011



The world renowned Merce Cunningham Dance Company are set to disband at the end of this year and this series of shows at The Barbican are going to be their last performances in London.

Mercier Cunningham, who died aged 90 in 2009, left behind him a legacy of visionary choreography and experimental ethos. Cunningham's dance troupe have continued to perform since his death and last night’s performance of ‘Roaratorio’ in the Barbican Theatre served as an intricate demonstration of the endless possibilities of experimental dance.

Without adhering to a coherent narrative, each dancer seemed to adopt a character within a show that seemed intent on creating atmosphere rather than structured content. The startling synchronicity of the dancers revelled in the ‘found-sound’ ambience of the soundtrack and it was to the performers’ credit that they were able to keep time amidst such disparate sonic terrain.

Stylistically the show was extremely impressive but at points it lacked some of the more common tropes of dance or ballet that an audience might have come to expect; a story, a narrative, or a change in musical style. However, the company’s ability to operate outside of artistic convention presented the audience with a beautiful abstract and a fitting homage to the daring choreography of their late leader. It was by no means easy viewing, but the show was challenging and inventive enough to honour Cunningham's unique vision.