Israeli dance company Vertigo’s artistic director and choreographer, Noa Wertheim, developed this new work by reassembling hand-picked fragments of previous works from the past 20 years, and in doing so has created a glorious tangle of human relationships that contribute to the knotted fibre of life.
Think Romantic poets – Byron, Keats, Shelley and friends; think tangled loves, passion and envy; exiles, bohemians and sexual adventurers.
Designer Rakefet Levy’s magnificent costumes give a slight nod to the Victorian era: ruffled collars, lace doublets, puffy breeches and shorts. Dani Fishof’s muted, introspective lighting, Ran Bagno’s haunting and at times frenetic music, plus a stark grey set comprising three walls set with small platforms on which the dancers are seated – it all evokes a surreal landscape reminiscent of a villa nestled near Lake Geneva. Think snow-capped mountains and icy waters.
We’re led into the scene by the music, which starts before the curtain rises, then two women, with hair stretching upwards, begin a slow descent downstage, holding hands. A provocative slide into disarray, with two white balloons hovering upstage.
Issues of trust and communication are alluded to, with dancers falling from the platforms into the arms of waiting dancers, women lunging across the floor with their hands over their ears and couples reaching for each other without connecting.
Dancers waltz with themselves. Men manipulate each other into fighting, with the entire company picking up the pace and leaping into frenzied madness only to bring themselves to a jerking, quivering halt, standing as one, palms open.
Choreographically, Wertheim has brought every part of the dancers’ bodies into play, from foot articulations and pelvic grinds to jerking heads and trembling fingers. The unison sections are especially effective as dancers group together in deep plies, nudging their way forward on toes and heels, occasionally breaking from conformity with outstretched arms.
The finale is a “wedding” scene where one couple is manoeuvred into compliance, eventually relinquishing control and accepting their fate with false smiles. The full stop a snapshot of conviviality.
Vertigo Dance Company has given us a beautiful exploration of the foibles of human relationships, and I was left wondering if they were white balloons of hope, or grief?
The final performance of Vertigo 20 is at the Dunstan Playhouse tonight.
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