Derevo

Derevo
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2006
Aurora Nova at St. Stephen's Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
August 4-28, 2006
Reviewed by Lea Marshall


Russian dance-theater troupe Derevo in Ketzal
Photo by Elena Iarovaia, courtesy Derevo

 

Watching Derevo’s Ketzal means being buffeted by sound, light, writhing limbs, rolling eyes, flickering fingers, until you no longer try to understand what you are seeing but simply watch. And watching in that receptive state invites a flood of feelings—powerful and elusive of definition—that you could not otherwise experience. The Russian dance-theater group’s work can bring about true catharsis, and as I sat unexpectedly weeping, I understood for the first time what that means.

It means at first the thinking, judging mind roused to confusion and then beaten back to quiet observation by a series of visions, initially via a jagged hole cut in a hanging plastic tarp, through which faces, bodies, hands appeared and disappeared, moving as if through a weightless space, lit brightly against the blackness. Later, with the plastic torn down and the space opened, images and fragments of narrative began to emerge. Nearly naked bodies or those adorned with beaks and feathers struggled with shrieks and silence, hunched backs, sudden leaps or wild scampering.

The chaos onstage seems overwhelming until you realize that chaos is inherent in the sequences of birth, growth, death, and rebirth that Derevo, through some primeval channeling process, evokes with such visceral intensity. A mother figure gave birth to a wild bird-man, beaked and fierce, who wriggled his way to standing and became a central figure in the swirling maelstrom of the stage. Scurrying hooded figures suddenly opened out to a circle and let go their drapery, revealing long skirts and bare chests. They whirled around, slow and luminous like Sufis in colored light. Toward the end a fabric sun rose red over a water-strewn stage; a lone figure stood black against its light.

Derevo taps into a wellspring of the collective human soul and rends you with images of enduring pain and struggle. But it also leaves you flooded with compassion in the face of a dark and gorgeous world. See www.auroranova.org or www.derevo.org.

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Derevo

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas and the Akram Khan Company
2006 Next Wave Festival
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn, NY
October 3, 5-7, 2006
Reviewed by Lisa Rinehart


Russian dance-theater troupe Derevo in Ketzal
Photo by Elena Iarovaia, courtesy Derevo

 

In celebration of Steve Reich’s 70th birthday, the Next Wave Festival offered something old and something new. Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Fase, four movements to the music of Steve Reich, its segments named for their musical accompaniment, premiered in 1982; the evening’s new offering was the world premiere of Akram Khan’s Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings, set to the 2005 composition of the same name. The two pieces illustrate how the composer’s powerfully minimalist sound can support, or overwhelm, a dance.

In Fase, De Keersmaeker uses Reich’s trademark hypnotic quality brilliantly. Mimicking his musical structure with short, simple phrases of movement—sometimes lush and circular, sometimes aggressively choppy—De Keersmaeker draws one’s attention inward like a whirling watery eddy pulls scattered petals to its center. If this sounds like an obvious choreographic response to Reich’s music, it is—but it is also stunningly beautiful and surprisingly emotional.

The piece opens with “Piano Phase” as two women (De Keersmaeker and Tale Dolven) stand in putty-grey dresses with their shadows reflected in triplicate behind. Rhythmic spins, pendulum-like arm movements, and pauses punctuated by sharp intakes of breath, create a basic movement equation. In synch with Reich, De Keersmaeker then adds and subtracts variables until the dance reflects the composer’s subtle changes in tone, rhythm, and timbre. If this were devotional dance, then it would be godly stuff.

Using the same formula, three subsequent phases are set to voice, violin, and clapping, each to different effect. For “Come Out” and “Clapping Music” the women wear masculine pants and shirts, and their movements are tight and angular. But in “Violin Phase” De Keersmaeker gives us a sensual, flowing solo of circles pierced with the occasional lunge. Whirling, she lets her eyes close in a Sufi-like trance until she stops abruptly, clenching her fists and biting the air with a defiant “I’m here.”

No such transcendence with Khan. For all his physical prowess (and that of his fellow dancers, Gregory Maqoma and Young Jin Kim), Kahn’s efforts suggest an athletic dance-off. With the players of the London Sinfonietta (an impressive lineup of 12 string players, 2 pianists, and 4 percussionists with vibraphones) onstage—presumably to present the dancers as bodily instruments—the music eclipses Kahn’s movement. Especially unfortunate is Kahn’s choice to begin and end in silence, with Maqoma seated behind a center microphone answering questions about process from an unseen (and unheard) interviewer. If a dance is successful, words are usually unnecessary. See www.bam.org.

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Derevo

Derevo
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2006
Aurora Nova at St. Stephen's Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
August 4-28, 2006
Reviewed by Lea Marshall


Russian dance-theater troupe Derevo in Ketzal
Photo by Elena Iarovaia, courtesy Derevo

 

Watching Derevo’s Ketzal means being buffeted by sound, light, writhing limbs, rolling eyes, flickering fingers, until you no longer try to understand what you are seeing but simply watch. And watching in that receptive state invites a flood of feelings—powerful and elusive of definition—that you could not otherwise experience. The Russian dance-theater group’s work can bring about true catharsis, and as I sat unexpectedly weeping, I understood for the first time what that means.

It means at first the thinking, judging mind roused to confusion and then beaten back to quiet observation by a series of visions, initially via a jagged hole cut in a hanging plastic tarp, through which faces, bodies, hands appeared and disappeared, moving as if through a weightless space, lit brightly against the blackness. Later, with the plastic torn down and the space opened, images and fragments of narrative began to emerge. Nearly naked bodies or those adorned with beaks and feathers struggled with shrieks and silence, hunched backs, sudden leaps or wild scampering.

The chaos onstage seems overwhelming until you realize that chaos is inherent in the sequences of birth, growth, death, and rebirth that Derevo, through some primeval channeling process, evokes with such visceral intensity. A mother figure gave birth to a wild bird-man, beaked and fierce, who wriggled his way to standing and became a central figure in the swirling maelstrom of the stage. Scurrying hooded figures suddenly opened out to a circle and let go their drapery, revealing long skirts and bare chests. They whirled around, slow and luminous like Sufis in colored light. Toward the end a fabric sun rose red over a water-strewn stage; a lone figure stood black against its light.

Derevo taps into a wellspring of the collective human soul and rends you with images of enduring pain and struggle. But it also leaves you flooded with compassion in the face of a dark and gorgeous world. See www.auroranova.org or www.derevo.org.

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