Robot @ The Barbican Review

Robot: a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer. We often attribute the term to an object that is metallic, moves rigidly and is powered by digital technology. That in part is correct however Blanca Li Dance Company manage to tap into the zeitgeist and grasp onto the fact that a transformation, whether we notice it is happening. In the word’s of company director Blanca Li “Our memory is becoming artificial, our footprints tend to be electronic, our identity is partly digital”.


Li’s Robot recognises the overwhelming presence of routine. We are creatures of habit, performing a multitude of rituals and routines daily. Robot dissects this premise, places our very being under a microscope and presents an engaging sequence of intricate body processes. Eight dancers emulate cells, matter and nerves. Every action causing a reaction, every dancer vital to the greater picture. This is a joy to witness; Li’s choreography showcases the strength and precision of the cast and it’s as if the audience are witnessing the wonders of the human body but magnified. The opening sequence highlights the body’s constant state of moving, but with an organised chaos and is compelling. Teamed up with Tao Gutierrez and Maywa Denki‘s sound design successfully submerge the audience into an anatmomical wonderland. The cast of eight are mindful of one another, no one dancer overshadowing the next. Yacnoy Abreu Alfonso, Rémi Benard, Iris Florentiny, Yann Hervé, Africa Manso, Margalida Riera Roig, Gaël Rougegrez and Yui Sugano all show what a true ensemble collaborate like.

What’s prevelant during the evening is Li’s appreciation of technology. The evening shifts between the robotic routines of the dancers and truly mesmerising soundscapes created by an assortment of specially crafted instruments. What’s wonderful is how these instruments suspend belief. No one physically manipulates them, rather they have been programmed to play an array of catchy rhythms independently. On a first glance these instruments stand out in the sense that they are of a certain time. Belief is truly suspended as these archaic instruments take on a life of their own. This is a joy, yet haunting to watch as this commentary reveals our moving into a technologically rich world where everything can be manipulated and controlled.

Dancers travel through different time periods and within that integrate a robotic presence in some sense or other. Miniature robots push the boundaries on what we as the audience have been bought up to believe robots can achieve. They mimic dancer’s movements with such precision that you can’t help but gasp in disbelief. These robots are fun and change the evening’s conversation from ‘routines’ to ‘innovation and invention’. What can be taken from the show is it’s sense of play. Within the 90mins there are observations on how we currently live and what we are moving towards. There isn’t a direct narrative, rather the evening explores various situations. A stark moment taken away from the show happens at the beginning. An almost bare dancer stands centre stage. He is a canvas to Charles Carcopino‘s stunning video projections. A kaleidoscopic fusion of colour and activity, muscles, bones, armour and robotic features start off the relay of routine yet to follow. An imaginative show, Robot attempts to tackle various ideas which impacts on structure. 3.5/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Robot is currently showing at The Barbican until Saturday 25th February 2017. For more information on the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop