Joan Davies gives full marks to this inventive and challenging subversion of dance


Part of Mayfield Depot has become a cathedral like space, with lit pillars and a shiny reflective floor contained within its cavernous decay, a suitable set for the premiere of choreographer Boris Charmatz’s new work, 10,000 gestures.

One dancer, clad in shiny red, introduces the piece solo, setting the initial mood for an enthralling hour of inventive and challenging choreography. The twenty five dancers are in turns joyous, inquisitive, playful, despairing and tortured, as they contribute their own moves to the work structured by Boris Charmatz to the background of Mozart’s Requiem

The title reflects the aim to create 10,000 gestures in a performance where there is no repetition, no patterning, no mirroring, no return to what has been seen before: a stunningly welcome contrast to MIF’s other dance production, Available Light.

The storm of movement is chaotic; it’s difficult to decide who to watch, where to look. Any direction is rewarding, and within the initial chaos are themes, alliances of movement styles and moves within small groups, changing with the changing movements of Mozart’s Mass.  

Memorable, without the repetition which aids memory, three sections stand out: a lengthy section of screaming where I needed to dig deep into the almost obliterated music; a schadenfreude-inducing section of engagement with the audience; and a less-noted still passage, accompanied not by Mozart but by noise of the outside street, probably recorded and amplified. 

Mif17 Boris Charmatz 10000 Gestures Credit Tristram Kenton 2
Mayfield Depot has become a cathedral like space

The audience has options. The work can be viewed without attempting a thematic or narrative context, concentrating entirely on dance skill, inventiveness and musicality. Possible interpretations include an exploration of the human condition, singular and social with a drive towards progress and meaning before meeting on inevitable hell, Hieronymus Bosch style; or perhaps the human period of Earth’s life, with a vision of what lies ahead for us if we don’t change our ways, the still silent section a pause for reflection. 

Bringing an artist of the unconventional status of Boris Charmatz - director of the Rennes & Brittany National Choreographic Centre, who transformed the organisation into the cutting-edge Museum of Dance (Musée de la danse) - is something MIF does well, and should continue to do. 

I loved this. I want to see it again. It’s exciting and new. It reflects the potential of the space. It subverts our understanding of dance. It’s fully in the spirit of the ‘Original Modern’ philosophy of MIF (and joyously for me, for once I don’t have to stand - there are seats!).

There’s only two more performances in Manchester, but there are seats left for its return home to France. Though I don’t know why it’s described here as a pre-premiere.  Manchester has sufficient stature for premieres.  

10,000 Gestures, Mayfield Depot, until Sat 15 July