Elixir Extracts review – silver sirens steal the show | Dance

Charlotta Öfverholm.

Founded in 2014, Sadler’s Wells’ Elixir festival is a season of performances, workshops, classes and talks that celebrates the older dancer – this year running on a smaller-scale, called Elixir Extracts. Opening its first evening was Liz Aggiss, dubbed the “enfant terrible of the bus pass generation” in the programme note, whose inimitable presence – equal parts Weimar cabaret host, dada dancer, rogue feminist and end-of-pier prankster – feels as fresh now as it did when she started out four decades ago.

Charlotta Öfverholm.
Fearless … Charlotta Öfverholm. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Her short solo Crone Alone is, as she repeatedly points out during the performance, definitely and defiantly not pretty. She peels off her coat – a kind of shiny all-body bin-bag – to reveal a scuzzy vest and bulging Y-fronts. She peels those off too, revealing successive layers of vests and undies that release various abject objects – plastic turds, a kind of sausage-dick-poop-cigar that she nibbles and puffs on, a pink bunny-tail pompom that she sticks between her buttocks – until finally she is down to her last layer, daubed with paint-on nipples and scribbled pubes. In between, she recalls critical reactions to her early shows, cranks her limbs into puppetty jerks, rants and raps to club and rock rhythms, air-guitars her fingers in front of her crotch.

Peel away your lifelong accretions of self and society, she seems to say, and you find fights and philosophising, you find odours, body hair and saggy skin, and you find a hot, sweaty soul that is not pretty, but is punchy – and a force of life.

Swedish veteran Charlotta Öfverholm is another powerful performer, with a strong stage presence and wide-ranging talents: she sings, she acts and she can fling her limber body about fearlessly and vigorously through full-bodied dives, splays, spins and tumbles. Her impressive capabilities merit a better vehicle than she has created in her solo Lucky, which throws its punches all over the place – film clips of a road, of a sea, of talking heads, scenes of crawling and crashing, strobe-lit shudders, French chansons and American swing, audience patter, yoga, primal screams, rope-pulling, ladder-climbing – and so doesn’t quite land any of them. You feel the energy, but not the aim.