Born by the sea

Fran Díaz

The hoodie-wearing Sandra Bourdais and Louis Steinmetz are on the prowl. As occupants of a spare, moody grey limbo these fine, sharp yet liquid movers appear tough, angular but also somehow attuned. Sometimes the focus is on him or her, but really they’re operating like each other’s syncopated shadow or mirror image. The dancing hints at hip hop, perhaps clubbing; it’s a mite machinated, glancing and literally on the run. Occasionally, and always briefly, bodies roll together and wrap round. The soundtrack – spoken word by Richie (The Prodigy) Culver – is a bleak, sparse account of existence in an utterly enervating British seaside town. The tone is ponderous, even borderline pretentious. Still, the work itself doesn’t outstay its damp, dark welcome. It’s not a romance, but by the end these two young loners seem to have found each other. A single, tender glimmer of hope is better than none at all.

Donald Hutera

Sandra Bourdais and Louis Steinmetz function together like well oiled machines in clean, sharp sync and feline movement. Male/female duets tend to make me wary of cliched takes on romantic relationships. This one, however, feels refreshingly more like the mating ritual of two predators.Their contact seems clinical at first, but when it becomes sensual it is in the feral manner of two tigers entangled in a brawl.

Fortunately, too, the lack of a more defined narrative or higher concept isn’t a minus. The dancers imbue their relatively brief encounter with strength and subtlety. Their fascinating display of skill is augmented by the flat grey of the walls and floor, and the desolate spoken word voiceover and electronic bass – a bleak, dystopian setting that gives the duo’s gravitas a convincing context.

Their shared tour de force finally morphs, through jolting gestures, into a stiff embrace – a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of tenderness as the stage fades to black.

Simina Popescu

Scenic landscapes are ephemeral, but so too are emotional ones. In Born by the sea the latter is shaped for us through the street dance-inspired movement of Sandra Bourdais and Louis Steinmetz. They gravitate towards the floor of a modest, sparsely-lit theatrical space, circling round amidst waves of vibratory, low-toned sound and phrases of a poetic text conveying the narrator’s memories. At first they are apart then suddenly become synchronous, only to separate again almost immediately. Who are these people – former lovers? Or strangers infatuated by an accidental encounter? Their bodies search for each other.

Fran Díaz’s duet manifests an affecting depth evident in the dancers’ intense mutual focus, and in the modest setting in which the choreographer creates compelling images such as viewing them through a swirling cloud of smoke. Even more poignant is the final sequence. Here the dancers adopt tiny steps, finding themselves in so close an embrace that their heads lay on each other’s shoulders. We too know this feeling of impossible closeness, and leave the auditorium touched.

Zuzanna Berendt

A brooding duet forms the centre of Fran Diaz’s Born by the sea. The wide-eyed dancers Sandra Bourdais and Louis Steinmetz share a tender gaze, spiralling and ducking around the stage in search of escape from the encroaching darkness. The pulsating score, created by Richie Culver and The Prodigy, provides a contextual base for the work: a melancholy spoken-word poem melds with the grimey sound of UK-bass techno to describe adolescent disorientation amongst the smoggy ports of “English seaside towns.”

It’s never made clear what relationship these dancers (from France and Luxembourg, and collaborating with a Spanish choreographer) have with a deeply personal text explicitly connected to UK rave and working-class culture.This imperfect appropriation nevertheless generates a powerful sense of the social isolation characteristically lamented by the British underground. Ultimately, the misfit movement and sound evoke the teenage desire for bigger and better things with a delicacy that should be stimulating for adventurous dancers and nostalgic ravers alike.

Luke Macaronas