Football is the inspiration behind one of the international dance shows at Lift next week by a troop of aspiring professional footballers from West Africa pulled together by a visionary choreographer Ahilan Ratnamohan.
The Australian has been all around Europe playing in Sweden, Holland and Germany but has fallen in love with the rhythm and the ballet of football. His great idol is Johann Cruyff “The way he moves the ball and the way he creates angles with his body, its pure ballet” says Ratnamohan. There is a lovelly atmospheric compilation of the great Dutch master called The Art of Johann Cruyff. Try watching it without a tear of nostaligia in your eye.
Ahilan has a vision of football as a dance and brings that to life with his productions on stage. His first was a 2009 fusion of football and dance called The Football Diaries. This week he brings his latest creation “Michael Essien – I want to play as you …” to Londons Lift festival. The dancers are not dancers by trade but as aspiring footballists provide an amazing connection to the bueatiful game. Ratnamohan found them in an Antwerp park practicing their football skills and in an instant saw the opportunity of putting these guys into a theatre of dreams of their very own. Ahilan Ratnamohan and a group of African migrant footballers have devised this piece using their shared language of football.
The production is recvieving critical acclaim 'Essien...' has all the energy and joie de vivre of the players who stand before us “ Stamp Media – Belgium. The lure of success in European leagues has drawn many into believing in football as a way out of poverty — and created an underclass of football-aspirants in foreign lands. Sitting between dance and theatre, their performance explores the hidden stories of the game we all think we know.
Ratnamoham explains his journey. “I scored a couple of gigs in some theatre productions, which had always been my second passion. It had a snowball effect and I ended up deciding to stay in Australia to pursue performance. It was inevitable that football would intertwine and I started exploring the idea of football as a dance making the The Football Diaries with Lee Wilson at Urban Theatre Projects.
Rhythm and dance are about movement and football is full of body shapes, feints and flowing movement. Rhythm brings to mind the Brazilian samba and the musical symetry of the great Brazilian sides. Not getting too carried away now … but the later day metronomic passing of the tikka takka Spanish and the skilful Dutch sides all exhibit a balletic style that is part of the entertainment and theatre of all football fans dreams.
There are other dance treats at the Lift Festival such as “Roof” by the maverick choreographer David Rosenbourg where free running roof top dancers exhibit high risk high energy dance routines on a fragile building site. There is also the innovative Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrao with his new hip hop show CRACKz with dance moves sourced from urban dance bands videos. Why not get you and your family out for a trip to support the festival.
Theatre and fringe festivals are all about showcasing new talent and reaching out to new audiences. Ratnamohan is unapologetic about who he is targeting for his production.”its for football fans, if contemporary dance fans like it then that’s a bonus”. So whether you are a closet dance fan or a died in the wool Chelsea fan there is some special appeal for this production.
Growing up as children we get influenced by the great visionaries and stylists and you can do no wrong by taking your child to expereince a Ratnamohan show. Why not pop along to Liftfestival.com and see when you and your children can get along to a very special football ballet. Getting varied influences and helping your child see new things that can inspire them is all part of helping your child develop a varied impression of the outside world. Ratnamoham and his West African aspiring footballers have a dream and it can only be inspitaional to see them bring their dreams all the way to a live stage in London. “Michael Essien” at the Lift festival is well worth taking in!