Myths and Dreams

Choreography by Renaud Wiser, Małgorzata Dzierżon and Fabritia D'Intino & Clémentine Vanlerberghe
Fertile Ground Dance Company
Dance City

Myths and Dreams
Labyrinth
Plubel
Somnium

Myths and Dreams is a triple bill: Labyrinth, Plubel and Somnium. The three pieces are performed by Esmée Halliday, Ellie Marsh, Lila Naruse and Beth Veitch, this year’s company of young professional dancers with strong connections to the North East.

Labyrinth

Choreographed by Renaud Wiser in collaboration with the dancers
Virtual sculptures by Marie Lelouche
Lighting design by Christopher Swan

Labyrinth is, Wiser tells us, freely inspired by the myth of the Minotaur, the half-human, half-bull creature which, in the classical Greek myth, lived in the labyrinth of King Minos of Crete and devoured human beings, sacrifices of young men and maidens sent from Athens, for his food.

This labyrinth is, at times, a projection and, at others, created by light and shadow on the floor, a virtual maze. It’s also a maze which moves, even as the dancers try to pass through. It is a visual reflection of the complexity of modern life which the four dancers have to negotiate, just as those young men and women of Athens had to find their way through Minos’ labyrinth to avoid being devoured by the Minotaur.

Initially it is individuality which dominates in this struggle but gradually the four dancers come together, leaving their isolation to join first one other and then more until all are together and solo desperation gives way to group support.

The shifting maze is an effective metaphor of the complexity of modern life and the difficulty we have navigating it and the audience empathises with the anxiety and pain of the dancers’ journeys.

Plubel

Choreography by Fabritia D’Intino and Clémentine Vanlerberghe
Music by Federico Scettri
Lighting Design by Violaine Burgard with Pierre Staigre

At the back of the stage four women, naked above the waist and with their backs to the audience, stand two arms’ lengths apart. They are lit from the waist up but there is nothing sexual, even revealing, in this semi-nudity. The overwhelming impression is of anonymity. They start to move their arms in unison.

The precision and unity of the four moving as one recalls the corps de ballet, even possibly automata.

But these arm movements suggest femininity, female roles. Among them are arms open in welcome; the gathering, nurturing embrace; the exaggerated sexuality of the pin-up; some oriental dance moves and more.

After some minutes of repetition, the unison begins to fall apart. A slight change in one arm in one figure, then the unison resumes. Shortly, however, another small change occurs in another dancer’s movement and gradually the unison, the homogeneity, breaks down and we are now beginning to see four individuals. The corps de ballet is fragmenting, the automata coming to life.

As the piece continues there is a little movement in the dancers’ torsos and a slight glimpse of a breast is revealed, further lessening the anonymity. From being part of a single entity, they have become separate individuals.

It’s only a short piece – around ten minutes – and could almost be described as static for each dancer remains in the same place throughout, but it is nonetheless compelling, even hypnotic. An interesting contrast to the at times almost desperate movement of Labyrinth.

Somnium

Choreography by Małgorzata Dzierżon in collaboration with dancers
Film director: Filipe Alcada
Music by Oliver Coates
Lighting Design by Christopher Swain
A Dance City 2021/22 Commission

Somnium was conceived as a film during Pandemic-driven confinement and isolation and the piece aims, as Dzierżon says in her programme note, to “capture and express our dreams, memories, anxieties and desires at the time of change.”

Like dreams, it is surreal: images merge and separate or are superimposed one on the other; a dancer splits into two and dances alongside herself; dancers suddenly acquire bronze-like masks; red light comes from stage left and green from stage right and we are reminded of the old fashioned images for 3D glasses. Some of the merged images are unrecognisable, especially in the false red/green colouring.

Oliver Coates’ music provides an almost continuo-like underscoring throughout; at times a threatening low frequency sound, at others sampled voices on the edge of intelligibility, at yet others an almost bone-like percussion rattle and at others transmuting into an otherworldly, somewhat eerie electronic sound.

Sound and images, gesture and movement are hypnotic, uneasy, recreating the kind of disturbed surreality of anxiety-induced dreams which I suspect many of us experienced over those fifteen months when our lives – and minds – were turned upside down and inside out by the effects of Covid-19 on them.

Uncomfortable but very real!

Reviewer: Peter Lathan