Last night I went to see the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. There were three works. The first was Beautiful Mistake. It premiered in Aspen on July 6th, 2013. The second, Return To A Strange Land premiered on May 17, 1975. The third, Square Non premiered on April 13th 2012.
Beautiful Mistake has an urgency to it, a strong sense of drama. The costume design enhances this. All in black, the costumes are simple, yet with an elegant flare. The movements are quick, angular and rigid. They frequently dance in rhythm with each other but move with a subtle difference, following through with a slight variation which gives each performer a uniqueness. I begin to sense that even though these dancers are dancing together, there is a sense of isolation welling up inside of them. Although their bodies touch, struggle and support each other, they are each caught up in their own web of despair. A thread woven between them and through them, linking a past full of sorrow, their present tangled up in regret and a future drawing much too near. A future of obligation as inescapable as a curse.
Return To A Strange Land begins with a trio. A softer more subtle expression coming through. The men in beige pants and the woman in a basic beige leotard. There is still a sense of sorrow, yet hope finds a way to weave itself into this experience. There is an elegance that is marvelous to watch. The arms swooping and curving into circles. The bodies enveloping each other. There is power in the ending. The men kneel and with their backs to the audience, she is lifted and somehow she balances there, there is an audible response, a murmuring all around me. It is a stunning moment. And the pieces that follow continue this thread, the elegance, the sorrow, the endings capturing that moment of release and then you breathe into it.
The third part is a duo ending with his back to the floor, leg perpendicular and the woman suspended, curling around and gripping the top of his legs. The fourth and final piece of Return To A Strange Land ends with another trio. Once again, its the ending that captivates me. The struggle with emotions leads to surrender. Collapsing into one another, the men form a base, a makeshift altar. She is there, on top, arms outstretched, transformed.
Square none has the most variations in music. Beginning with music by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, there is a slow twitch to life in the music and the dancers, seven of them all on the floor in various forms. One begins to move as if by the will of another. Slowly at first, and then the others twitch and quickly raise up. The plucking of strings, turns to static then turn my attention back to the dancers as they seem to be gaining a power of their own now.
There is a fierceness. They are finding themselves, becoming acquainted with animate life. A playfulness appears that gives a balance to the heaviness we experienced in the first to works. I love the color and the sophisticated detail of the womens leotards. Its this silver blue, it invokes the twilight hour. There is a switch between an operatic voice and this music that carries the memory of a child’s toy box. An electric current is charging through the dancers.
I noticed that Aphex Twin was listed for the music, and I had a guess as to which one once I heard child like song earlier. And indeed, it is. The last song, this song….i have fantasized about watching a dance performance to this song! Stomping their feet, clapping their hands, all seven of them combining their own sounds to compliment the music. A frenetic energy bouncing between them. I had an image of a moth being drawn to the light, the audience being drawn to their dance. I had the desire to stop it, to completely capture the moment because of its stirrings inside of me, because of the beauty I could see. But of of course, I didn’t want to stop it at all, my curiosity followed wondering where they would go.
This particular Aphex Twin song has always had a soft spot in my heart. It seems to have an otherworldly aspect to it. A deep wisdom, a knowing that somehow inspires an innocence, a shutting of ones eyes to see. A stirring of the heart and soul to follow what one sees beyond our sight. A trusting. I was completely captivated with this last piece. I watched as they slowly descended onto the floor as if in a trance once again, losing that freedom, losing themselves. Legs and arms raised, but by whose will?