Dance Review - Morphoses at Jacob’s Pillow: Whose Dream Is It, Anyway?
Most who entered the Ted Shawn Theatre this week to see the group Morphoses in the world premiere of WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) probably realized that the second half of the evening’s program would be Pontus Lidberg’s 2010 film, called Labyrinth Within. Lidberg also choreographed and designed the “live” first half of the program, which includes film, and dances in both. The two halves are interrelated.
WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) is notable not just for its cast of exceptional dancers, but for its blending of dance and film, projected on a large screen that runs nearly the width of the stage. It begins with Lidberg, in a pale blue shirt, on the floor, where he seems to end up during much of the performance, in a pool of low light, surrounded by red flowers sticking up from the stage, indicating this has something to do with love. (And the red flowers do recur.) The choreography is notable for its transitions from languid to rigid; in many couplings the dancers, clad in street clothes, wind up in a variations of plank poses, supporting each other at full-body-length angles.
The juxtaposition of dance and film worked well when there was a clear visual relationship between what was happening on the stage and on the screen – for example, a character walking into both “frames” and then stopping, being caught in a mirror in the film in the same pose as onstage. Overall, though, the film was so engrossing, with its quick, impenetrable shifts in location – from the woods, to the beach, to a massive room with columns – powerful images, and larger than life figures, that it distracted from the live dancing rather than complementing the onstage action. Even when one character in the film simply sat in a chair, seeming to look down on the dancers, she drew attention away, especially given quick splices of a man’s arms around her. Was she daydreaming the live dance? Daydreaming this man?
The film wordlessly and dynamically portrays a lovers’ triangle in which an executive seemingly is betrayed; the object of his love (played by legendary ballet dancer Wendy Whelan) appears to have a lover behind a secret door in an apartment of endless rooms. Between the dizzying camerawork and the commissioned score by David Lang, the film is powerful, building tremendous tension. The film’s choreography is notable for the sensuality of the secret couplings between Whelan and Lidberg, the artistic lover character, and the stiff, rigid pas de deux of Whelan and Giovanni Buccheri, as the businessman. It reaches a nearly murderous pitch as Buccheri becomes enraged with suspicions and bursts through the secret door, only to find Whelan in what looks like her art studio. Did he dream up this lovers’ tryst? Is what he imagined to be her cheating on him actually her retreat into her creative side? Who is to blame? They reconcile, their stiff interactions melting into affection.
But then the film ends with dancers obscured behind the screen, made fuzzy like an unclear memory or a dream that can’t be recalled upon awaking. The screen is rolled back a bit and there is Lidberg, live, on the floor, in the same shirt he wore in the film (when not in a state of undress with Whelan). Was he dreaming the action of the film? Having a memory of a lover? Was he part of someone else’s imagination? These questions hang in the air, along with images from the films, overpowering the actual dance. Which perhaps raises the question: What was the actual dance in this dual media program? Mysteries abound.
Morphoses in WITHIN (Labyrinth Within)
At the Ted Shawn Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow
Through July 1
Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow