A well-matched double-bill, both about crowd mentality, but contrasting in mood, one dark, one bright: the first exploring masculinity, the other the ‘swarm intelligence’ of bees.
Angelin Preljoçaj’s work is known for its darkness and MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) (‘This is my body’) [★★★] is no exception. The title is a reference to the Last Supper but this piece concentrates more on the male body: an ambivalent paean to masculinity. Glistening torsos are well-lit, the rest of their bodies disappearing in shadow, the males grapple, or slap each other’s bodies on steel tables reminiscent of the morgue. No heroes, they turn on each other, just like the Apostles. There is little individuality as they move in delayed synchronicity, bordering on monotony. If this is dance pushing the boundaries, of the dancers’ exhaustion and the audience’s tolerance, this is a close run thing.
There are only brief references to the Bible: a tender moment of foot becomes body washing and striking tableaux reminiscent of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Christ’s humiliation is suggested: a man sings a haunting hymn whilst tormented, another attempting to dance whilst his limbs are taped, but these incidents verge on silliness. A splendid scene where dancers dive from a height to be caught would have been a splendid ending, but unfortunately the piece has no climax – it just stops.
Emergence [★★★★★] choreographed by Crystal Pite is a triumph. Abstract dance is balanced with insectoid hints: elbows raised like wings, jerks of the head. The ‘swam intelligence’ of bees is brilliantly matched to the regimentation of a ballet company. Set and lighting were dramatic: black streaks suggesting a ‘nest’ and the lit tunnel from which the dancers can emerge or dance inside in shadow-play. The highlights are a brilliant sequence when the ballerinas advance en pointe to be pushed back by the males and the entire company massed at the end, counting (humming?).