Yeats’ prophecy made manifest | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yeats’ prophecy made manifest

Posted by on Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 2:14 PM

[Ed. note: Brian Howe, a widely ranging culture critic and reporter, writes frequently for the Independent Weekly and other publications. He joins us today as a guest blogger.]

Rapture by Khadija Marcia Radin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold…

—W.B. Yeats

ADF, June 25, Reynolds Auditorium. Featured Works: Rapture by Khadija Marcia Radin; aKabi by Aydin Teker; Umwelt by Compagnie Maguy Marin.

These three dances could hardly be more different, yet taken together and in sequence, they seem to comprise a narrative of spiritual disintegration—Yeats’ prophecy made manifest.

The center and the gyre were established in the first piece, the Sufi whirling dance Rapture by Khadija Marcia Radin. On a stage cast in cool blue, as a narrator recited the truth-seeking poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi, Radin drew us into a comforting maze of ritual. She twirled in one place, first slowly and with great restraint, then faster, with accumulating gesture and inflection, as if caught up in the great eddies of the music’s yawning vowels. Eventually, she broke free from her stable axis to twirl in ellipses around the center she’d abandoned. At the time it felt like freedom, although later, after the two subsequent pieces developed the narrative, it would feel like a symbolic prelude to deracination—the center’s breaking point. The gyre that Radin widened would soon fly apart, accelerating like the cosmos itself.

The central conceit of Aydin Teker’s aKabi is the dancers’ footwear—absurdly high platform shoes, hard to judge precisely from the audience, but appearing to be at least a foot high, if not more. In my last ADF post, I wrote about how dance can reveal the beauty and grace underlying the awkwardness we perceive in bodies, but this piece did the exact opposite—the dancers’ grace was deliberately compromised by their awkward footwear. The effect of the piece was disquieting, and not just because of the nagging feeling that someone was bound to break an ankle. It began in pitch darkness as the dancers floundered noisily onstage, their shoes making a sound like amplified, irregular rainfall. There was pleasure in their geometric contortions, but the real power of the piece resided in the dancers’ exaggerated presences. When they came into the light, swaying like reeds on their high shoes, affectless and impassive, they were weird and powerful—mutants, or gods, but more like both. The impression is difficult to convey except by insinuation. At times they implied divers or strange frogs; at times, club-footed gymnasts. There was something primordial about the piece—creatures rising up from the muck, learning how to use their inefficient bodies. They were quivering, willowy, overly long, with the distorted perspective of divinity, walking toward us tentatively yet inexorably, like Easter Island heads made embodied and animate. It occurs to me now that, had the night opened with this piece, followed by Rapture, it would have strengthened the sense of intra-piece narrative development—the creatures rise from the ooze in aKabi, develop spirituality and morality in Rapture, and dissolve into the postmodern haze in Umwelt.

aKabi by Aydin Teker

It’s a good job that the brilliant, frustrating Umwelt closed the night, as it perfectly capped the sequence and left the audience exhausted (it is a daunting piece). Three guitars were supine at the front edge of the stage, as a mechanical pulley drew a long cord across their strings, creating an abstract, harrowing threnody. At the back of the stage, an assemblage of reflective plastic sheets implied both dressing rooms (shorthand for consumer culture) and a hall of mirrors (shorthand for postmodern confusion), a conflation that would be driven home in a manner not at all ambiguous. The gale-force sound of the guitars was paralleled by actual wind blown across the mirrored assemblage, so it trembled and violently distorted all reflections, spewing wavering curtains of light onto the stage—a set piece I can only describe as Lynchian. The dancers moved in and out of various compartments in visually rhyming groups, rehearsing rituals of consumption: trying on clothes, eating food, smoking, carrying house plants. Gradually the piece became less playful and more overtly dystopian—items jumbled and recombined illogically as in a Jan Svankmajer short, fights broke out, at times an individual dancer would stop to stare bewildered at the audience, seeming a prisoner to the howling stage, marooned in a mirror-world of synthesized desire and recursive consumption made hellishly literal. It was like witnessing a mass psychogenic fugue, the death throes of a culture with no identity beyond clothing, mass market products, ritual ablations signifying nothing. It was devastating.

Umwelt by Compagnie Maguy Marin

If Umwelt’s symbolic payload doesn’t exactly sound subtle, that’s because it’s not. The piece was technically brilliant, but made its point much too quickly to justify its excessive length. As it dragged on interminably, it became enervating—which is surely part of the point, that the consumer’s life is interminable and enervating and crushingly repetitive—but still. I do think this piece needed to extend beyond the point of comfort to be powerful, and to draw the audience fully into its strange yet familiar, claustrophobic world. But it went too far. I found myself at first entranced, then wholly submerged, as if the drama being enacted onstage were the only thing in the world. But as the piece dragged on beyond this point of immersion, I came out the other side of that state and became again aware of watching people act out a rather pedantic drama (and judging from the several parties of spectators I noticed bowing out at intervals, I wasn’t alone in this). I have to reiterate that this is a brilliant piece, a don’t-miss performance as long as you’ve a high threshold for existential dread. And its point may seem obvious, but we’ve yet to take it to heart—that you are what you consume is a logical impossibility by any definition of the word “consume,” yet it is the tacit assumption that animates our culture. One simply wishes Umwelt would make that point concisely enough to leave us in that spellbound state of heightened awareness, rather than belaboring it into eventual tedium, and bludgeoning us into the same befogged daze it wants to howl against. —Brian Howe

Tags: , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I want to share a testimony of how Dr. BEN herbal mixture cream saves me from shame and disgrace, my …

by Ethan Greg on Scott Crawford Refused to Sell Us a Plate of Food at Crawford and Son (Arts)

Hello everyone, i am here to share my testimony on how i enlarge my penis by a spell caster called …

by Berry Anny Love on Movie Review: Everyone Says Lego Flicks Are Uniquely Fun for Kids and Adults. We Sent One of Each to The Lego Batman Movie to Find Out. (Arts)

When discussing this play, you need to be cautious not to imply that it's an accurate depiction of autism. Mark …

by Curio Onscreen on Theater Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Lights Up the Mathematics of the Mind (Arts)

First comment sounds like Crawford wrote it.

by Chris Kassel on Scott Crawford Refused to Sell Us a Plate of Food at Crawford and Son (Arts)

Best ending should have been:

Aurora got really hurt by projectile (in movie it hit her arm). It should …

by Sergej on Movie Review: Passengers Proves a Bad Ending Can Ruin an Otherwise Good Movie (Arts)

Comments

I want to share a testimony of how Dr. BEN herbal mixture cream saves me from shame and disgrace, my …

by Ethan Greg on Scott Crawford Refused to Sell Us a Plate of Food at Crawford and Son (Arts)

Hello everyone, i am here to share my testimony on how i enlarge my penis by a spell caster called …

by Berry Anny Love on Movie Review: Everyone Says Lego Flicks Are Uniquely Fun for Kids and Adults. We Sent One of Each to The Lego Batman Movie to Find Out. (Arts)

Most Read

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation