A multi-layered Irish din of a dance, Roaratorio was earnest in delivery, typical of Cunningham, but with stolen smiles amidst all the hand-held set dancing that permeated a cacophony of sound by long-time collaborator, John Cage.
Originally performed in 1983, and now showing in Merce Cunningham Dance Company's final London programme, the only overtly identifiable 80s element in Roaratorio was the multi-coloured costumes with leg warmers - testimony to the timelessness of Cunningham's choreography. Who else could retain cool, razor sharp and controlled movement whilst exploring the traditional Irish jig?
As always in Cunningham's work, there was fast paced and beautifully synchronised movement, best appreciated when the full cast of dancers were moving as one, yet it was the moments of slowness melting into stillness that were the most striking, creating aesthetically delicious shapes. The heel digs and latticed arms, as well as the partner work, gave this piece a sociable and fleetingly playful feel, and we watched dancers become spectators, as they occasionally settled on stools on-stage, before bursting into a serious of virtuoso, yet tightly moulded leaps across the floor.
The applause was so lengthy that in the end the technicians chose to put the lights up to move the audience on. It certainly felt that this was an audience not quite wanting to let go of a piece of history, being wrapped up this week in the company's farewell tour.
Merce Cunningham Dance Cunningham perform Roaratorio tonight and RainForest / BIPED on Saturday at 7.45pm, Barbican Theatre. Tickets £16-42. Dance Umbrella runs throughout October. Don't miss Square Dances - free and alfresco in Bloomsbury - this weekend