Friday night time’s packed home at The Place in London for Gandini Juggling was a deliciously blended bag of ages and kinds, testomony to Sean Gandini’s broad enchantment and constant — to not say cult — following. His newest present, The Video games We Play, is a two-person deconstruction of the tough artwork of juggling during which Gandini and firm co-founder Kati Ylä-Hokkala punctuate their dexterous manipulation of balls and rings with explanations, reminiscences and anecdotes about juggling previous and current.
Along with his self-deprecating method and clean supply, Gandini — raised in Havana, mom Irish, father Italian — is an interesting speaker, however 60 minutes is a very long time and the dearth of construction made it appear longer nonetheless. In case your interior little one craves the spectacle of a 10-ring juggler in silver lamé you then could be higher off with Cirque du Soleil, however Gandini remains to be getting mileage from the “borderline between the cerebral and the bodily”, as he places it.
The stage was sparsely furnished with two folding tables and some dozen colored balls (the whole thing would slot in a sidecar), however the minimalist mise-en-scène was jazzed up by Man Hoare’s scene-setting lighting. The snatches of low-tech music and sound results seldom interrupted the simple movement of patter.
Whereas earlier exhibits majored on the maths concerned in juggling, this one shifts our consideration to color rhythms. This feeds a couple of gags — two colors are a Rothko, one color an Yves Klein or a Malevich, dropped balls turn out to be a Jackson Pollock — however this concept quickly ran out of steam and the pair switched to a tried and examined tabletop duet, lobbing, passing and sliding the bounce-less balls in a precision routine — a type of Chaplinesque model of Discover the Woman. The fixed snatching at balls, the light tangle of the arms and fingers had been delivered with the tender, deadpan wit seen in Jonathan Burrows’s work with Matteo Fargion — certainly, Burrows’s mixture of legerdemain, wordplay and lightweight percussion may provide a fruitful collaboration.
Gandini has been working with dancemakers since co-founding the corporate with Ylä-Hokkala in 1992. A lot of his greatest output has been created, oyster-like, in response to an exterior stimulus. Latest ventures with Ludovic Ondiviela and Alexander Whitley and last year’s Life (“a love letter to Merce Cunningham”) had been proof of this. Ditto his terrific work on ENO’s Olivier-winning 2016 manufacturing of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten: a dwelling backcloth of juggling hieroglyphs.
Extra dance would definitely be welcome in The Video games We Play. There was a quick, free-form juggling tango — Gandini flicks a imply gancho and Ylä-Hokkala is a former champion rhythmic gymnast — however by the tip of the hour he was lowered to writing his personal critique, ticking off the corporate’s pet tropes: “Each present we do has a side-to-side vaudevillian duet sitting on chairs . . . A neo-romantic intertwined fingers duet . . . Some gratuitous nudity.”
The ending felt flat and, as if aware of this, Gandini floated some attainable options: “Kati doing 10 minutes of Finnish stand-up? Goats coming in from either side? Nuns?” All very meta, however this reluctance to simply shut up and juggle reads like a person briefly weary of his presents.