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Brighton Year-Round 2024

Until We Sleep

Botis Seva: Far From The Norm

Genre: Contemporary, Dance, Hip Hop, Hip hop/breakin’

Venue: Brighton Dome


Low Down

What they do in the shadows packs a ground-shaking punch in Botis Seva’s mist-filled and mysterious dystopian vision. Impeccably performed, this earthy and engrossing new work is co-commissioned by Brighton Dome and on a world tour. Give those dancers a clap!




Have these bodies come from water or air? They are crested in feathers or scales and move like liquid, powered by the breath rippling through them; a slight shift off balance here, a steady bounding leap there. It’s a hermetically sealed world this gang of seven inhabit, perimeter fenced, hazy with mist, echoing with sounds human, animal and sonic.

Until We Sleep seems built to intrigue and perplex the viewer, taking us on a voyage to a dark and somewhat scary place. It’s reflective of our time, the world is full of troubles and Botis Seva makes some bold choices in how he presents his tightly crafted vision. We watch the dancers seeking, battling and sharing, always in shadow, otherworldly shapes driven to move.

The pleasantly idiosyncratic choreography takes from hip-hop but blends moves and motifs all Seva’s own. Whilst the piece conforms to tropes familiar in dance-theatre (a group of dancers skittering across the stage in unison, a spotlit duet, sudden punctuating bangs), it has a confidence, rhythm and vitality that continually surprises. There’s something of a computer game come to life in the characterisation, all swagger and kinetics, these honed physiques looming from the half light, their silhouettes larger than life and fantastical.

The set (by Matter Design) conjures images of forest, prison and church through angled shafts of light across which figures emerge or disappear. Is that murky figure holding a hatchet or a sceptre? What’s with the giant foam hands? And the gun-shots, they’re not fatal; are we watching ghosts?

Torben Sylvest’s intriguing, muscular score is integral throughout, the choreography corresponds with no beat missed. Hear how that whistle moves from human to birdsong, those morphed voices and resounding electro crashes. Because sound is everywhere, the occasional silence has drama. Along with Tom Visser’s sharply defined lighting and Ryan Dawson-Laight’s crested and shaped costumes it lends the whole piece a solid, sculptural feel.

The final moment, when Victoria Shulungu (magnificent as tribe leader) is finally alone, droplets of light falling around her, brings no resolution or salve. The audience is never acknowledged, though our presence may be felt. We are watchers from outside, observers with no agency, we take what we want or need and move on, moved.