This performance merges physical theatre with diverse music and song heavily infused with symbolism and meaning. Whilst I recommend researching the medieval Sephardic folk ballads or at least entering this piece with some former knowledge of the story it is based upon, the artists beautifully portray the intense emotions of love, loss and searching for understanding.
After the King (Takeshi Matsumoto) dismisses his daughter’s lover (Michael Kelland), the tribe are exiled to seek new land. As a chorus with synchronised movements, these artists create a sense of togetherness and connection between each member articulating the intricate relationships we form with one another. Marie Ronold Mathisen is particularly impressive as a dancer, her techniques consistently remaining fluid and graceful – it is stunning to watch as the music truly possesses her body. Equally, a poetic tableau of dance moves occurs between the two lovers, Kelland and Elisa Vassena, as they mourn the loss of each other, dancing an intimate depiction of their love and desperation. As their shadowy-bodies intermingle upon the projection screen, their contemporary dance captures their desire to never let go, encapsulating the difficulty of holding onto someone.
The juxtaposition of the daughter’s dance of despair is moving as Vassena dances within her trapped existence – which is artfully illustrated through encasing her within a crinoline. The graphic and somewhat gruesome images of red strings engulfing a weeping child in the background are difficult to stomach at first, but then the combination of these images and the dancer’s restraint are powerful and affective. The stylised dénouement, whilst I believe it could be stronger at times with the lovers’ reunion, is nonetheless thought-provoking in its representation of the senses and notion of the self-opposed to the group – each one connected and yet individual.
The visuals are striking and innovative with the use of quotes effectively producing an intense and deep tone, whilst the music sets varying rhythms, lulling the audience into calmness, then sharply arousing our attention as the dancers’ body language attempts to depict fundamental desires and emotions of human existence.
The singers are talented, yet the language barrier does create a distancing effect from the performance, which affects the ability to understand this piece in its entirety without the aid of the program’s story or some background knowledge. Yet, this barrier equally provides an advantage in that the audience can interpret the piece as they like and decide which parts resonate and capture their heart-strings, rather than being told what to feel.
The superb space creates a poignant atmosphere through a variety of means utilising projections, symbolism and influences from capoeira dance and physical theatre. The music varies by incorporating the rock vibe of an electric guitar with jazz and Latin along with outstanding singers and dancers. The quote that remains with me is: “who knows and understands.” It is a statement that speaks for us all. And ultimately, as the lovers stand under the delicately designed Hebrew Kabbalist tree of life – uprooted and hung upside down above the dancers – the essence of this ancient mythological symbol highlights the tribe’s final moments of pleasure at returning home.