xi 15

Broken Fall

I have a friend who is an Anglican priest. His sermons, conceived in the bath on a Sunday morning but otherwise unscripted, have the incredible sense that they are being preached directly to every individual in the congregation, addressing their particular, unspoken concerns. Everyone feels they are being spoken to personally. It is a great skill and has a powerful effect.

Russell Maliphant’s dance Broken Fall (2003) has the same quality. It speaks to me only, as it does everyone else in the theatre. It seems to tell the story of my life, and yet is an abstract composition of movement, music and light. The dance is like a dream weaver or a nomadic story teller conveying a story through gestures only, so that each listener hears their own tale.

The narrative is abstract; the stage empty apart from ethereal light and two men and one woman, Adams and Eve, they virile yet sensitive, she channelling Lara Croft. The men toy with her, sometimes loosely and at times containing her movements, but they also protect her and break her perilous falls. There is a loneliness between them, but it is not clear whose it is.

The dance plays with time as it does space and movement; freely, non-consecutively, non-linear. Time is turned on its head, moves backwards as their leaps coil and uncoil, and as the music weaves from the haunting melody of a solo piano to speaker-destroying club music, via flute and synthesizer. The music feels the least abstract, the most real element of the dance, its physical presence felt in the thump of the speakers.

It is to me pretty much a perfect work of art, as perfect as a Michelangelo Pieta or a Brunelleschi chapel. It is perfectly composed and has a complete narrative, yet is fluid and abstract. Nothing would I change.

I’ve decided I’d like it performed at my funeral.


Broken Fall, choreographed by Russell Maliphant, lighting by Michael Hulls, music by Barry Adams, commissioned by the Ballet Boyz, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, for them and Sylvie Guillem. Revived November 2015, Sadler’s Wells, London.

Photography: Hugo Glendinning       Dancers: Adam Kirkham, Carys Staton, Nathan Young