Perky pirouettes for the hoi polloi

The hardest question posed by Corpus’s enthusiastically light-hearted ‘We’re not Waving … We’re Drowning’ is defining what this piece actually is. It is too balletic for dance theatre, too messy to count as neoclassical ballet, too underdeveloped to be conceptual dance and too sleek for a revue. What this evening does is use dance in its various guises for the purpose of entertainment. And it entertains very successfully – even if some parts do so more originally than others.


The evening is the first full-length programme staged by Corpus – the Royal Danish Ballet’s ‘company within a company’. Corpus is artistically directed by the dancers Tim Matiakis and Esther Lee Wilkinson. These two have provided the choreography and – impressively – the large body of costumes for ‘We’re not Waving’. 


The piece allows its audience to see the Royal Danish Ballet dancers in a satisfyingly different setting from the plushy venerability of the old opera: on the stage of the Royal Play House, they appear close-up and level with the audience at whom they direct challenging stares.


When the lights go out, we are told that we are all dead and about to be presented with the ten eternal universes we can choose between. What follows are scenes of considerable aesthetic diversity: an intimate pas de deux, a makeover show, razor-sharp group choreographies, differently tempered soli and some war-playing for the gents.


With ‘We’re not Waving’, Corpus doesn’t make a secret about wanting to appeal to a wide audience. They have worked hard for the spectators’ hearts and admiration and thoughtfully put the piece together. In addition to that, they clearly received support and resources as the lavish costumes and scenography suggest. The participation of pretty much the entire company – from principal dancers to members of the corps de ballet – provides a level of skill that is hard to match.


And yet, the eagerness to please also means that the piece at times becomes gimmicky and overly chummy. Centring scenes around spectacular movements makes for some choreographic blandness, and the constant bombardment with fabulous attires for no apparent reason sometimes makes you feel trapped in a Vogue shoot. Though granted, that is not exactly an off-putting notion for everyone. 



There are two remaining performances of ‘We’re not Waving …We’re Drowning’ this Friday and Saturday – see for more details