To thrive, young dance makers needs fertile soil. Chances to perform in large theatres are few and vital. Sadler’s Wells biannual platform Wild Card is a dream opportunity for the next generation of choreographers. In its fourth year, Wild Card offers them the possibility of curating bespoke events for a few evenings of performances. These always take a different form. This time, it is the Spanish London based choreographer Pepa Ubera who takes over the Lilian Baylis Studio with ‘The Palest Light’ plunging us on deck chairs and relaxing music into a chill out zone. It is a spa treatment for the soul.

Pepa Ubera and Josefine Camus © Jesus Ubera
Pepa Ubera and Josefine Camus
© Jesus Ubera

The evening also featured undefined pre-show activities in the foyer. These turn out to be a soundscape created by the Salvatici brothers, Andrea and Simone, aka Clorinde. A little lost in this 'out of theatre' space – it ended in the background noise of chats and drinks – it came to its full glory as we entered the room and waited for the event to begin. The audience was guided on what usually is the dance floor and invited to take place on deck chairs and cushions in a lounge, a beach-like atmosphere among standing and hanging plants. Waiting with friends, enveloped in a relaxing mix of live improvisation and recorded music, it felt more like a social situation than a night at the theatre.

Suddenly, a woman asked us to make space for her to perform. Soothed by the Salvatici’s music the response was slow but eventually Alice Chauchat could execute her ‘group’ solo work Togethering. Taking her boots off the French choreographer started narrating while moving, exploring different aspects of intimacy and companionship. And unexpectedly we were chatting while she was doing some unusual menial work around the house. Tongue in cheek, she explained how she created a ‘companionship dance’ while studying the long lost occupation of ladies in waiting and the ‘telepathic dance’ that is only produced while a performer is performing and the audience watching him. The pseudo-lecture ended with her annotated cards with tasks on intimacy and relations.

After being lulled to relax and having reflected upon the politics of intimacy, the theatre/spa treatment continued with a sound bath. Scattered around the floor, laying down with our eyes closed on jackets and cushions, we were bathed by Sound Therapist Marco Float's music, the theatre now a distant memory, as we felt transported into the rooms in which one rests after the sauna. The therapeutic and relaxing effect was a little lost on me as my stomach decided a sing-along as if in a karaoke. Still, I ended up feeling refreshed and shiny. Florio managed well to make the unusual setting as therapeutic as possible. The selected audience – many other performers were present – surely helped.

Our aura spring-cleaned, we were ready for anything but maybe not Deniz Unal’s newest version of the Twister game. In her INSTRUCTION FOR A PERFORMANCE: RESISTANT BODIES AND CARE a suave voice read the instructions aloud and in pairs we proceeded to follow them while on the screen at the back you could see the paper from which these instruction were read. These were not always met with enthusiasm. It started as quite easy but quickly got complicated and intimately challenging, many glossing over the last instruction of licking the other's eyelashes. This exploration of the biomedical body left us confused and perplexed, trying to feel our “internal organs as if wrapped in plastic and robbing one against the other”.

Having experienced twisting the outside and the inside of our bodies we could empathize with the first tableau of Josefina Camus’s and Pepa Ubera’s Ellipsis Land. On soundscape by Simone Salvatici, the two performers were seen trembling and contorting as flies caught on flypaper laying on the floor in a square of light, their image taken from above and projected on the back wall. The suggestive dreamlike sequences – at a certain point they became weightless astronauts floating in space and out of the projection – from the flatness of the video, elegantly moved to the rawness of real bodies contorting in front of our eyes, before plunging into an intimate hide and seek with torches in pitch darkness, the cryptic title left unexplained.

It was an interesting evening that allowed you to relax and unwind after work. On our deck chairs, we only missed cocktails drinks with tiny umbrellas. Wild Card is a great format, with not too long taster works keeping our attention alive. But in this case, some were maybe a little too short. Some of the pieces felt like unfinished preludes to works that hopefully will be extended into fuller evening programmes. A great ‘informally’ formal opportunity; Sadler’s Wells goes a long way in its commitment to foster the new generation of dance makers.

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