Sung Im Her: W.A.Y review – what a trip!

Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Sung Im Her’s W.A.Y is a “re-work” – an all-female recreation of a 2019 piece originally performed by the choreographer and three men. But it also has a curiously retro feel, reworking the 70s and 80s minimalism of Lucinda Childs or Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, built on incremental repetition and variation.

Is that a problem? Actually, it’s a pleasure. Her’s cast-iron rigour nails the piece as her own, not a pastiche of someone else’s, and while the production could sometimes do with more polish the choreographic structure itself is taut and strong.

Everything starts near neutral: four barefoot women in unpatterned tops and trousers, pacing evenly through straight pathways and pivot points. If that sounds a little bland, don’t worry: it’s just the setup. Enter an obsessive little beat (courtesy of Belgian musician Husk Husk that will, bar a few intervals, persist to the end in some shape or form; Her too begins to add layers to the base material. With just a few adjustments, she loads those neutral walks with a particular kind of femininity: tip-toe sashays, jutting hips, vogueing arms.

The piece ramps up a notch, the beat turning clubby and the dancers pumping out arrays of what becomes the central choreographic motif: an obsessively repeated swivel, part turn of the screw, part flounce.

When patterns are repeated so persistently, small differences make all the difference. After all those linear geometries, a simple circular run feels like a bid for freedom – it’s a curve! – and culminates in one dancer’s reckless helicopter whirls, face lifted sunwards. Just when you think it’s all over, another section introduces a kind of trembling from within (another form of minimalism), before the piece strides purposefully towards its thrashing, ecstatic finale. It’s been quite a trip.

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