Free Falling is an elevating example of the work of a rare choreographer who knows what she wants and knows how to get it and then gives it to you.
Hagit Yakira’s four superb dancers reveal themselves consistently infused with her take on the body. Their work-a-day, loose-limbed ease, their every supposedly throw-away gesture, is executed with exquisite deliberation. Sabio Janiak’s gorgeous music and equally sensitive use of silence is a pleasure.
There are periods in the work when choreographer Yakira seems to be bringing to life those late Renaissance paintings of battle scenes depicting muscular warriors at the moment of clashing, suspended in mid-air, their bodies impossibly contorted. Or are they rather entangled Baroque lovers flinging themselves into consummation, or separation?
Limp bodies fly as if they were falling up, weave above and around each other at gravity-defying angles, roll along the floor as if pushed by an overwhelming magnetic force. The work is intensely physical, fleshly, athletic, contrasting thrillingly with the dancers’ aerial fluidity. In particular, dancer Sophie Arstall’s every gesture and expression is absolutely mesmerizing.
The reason the whole piece works so well is that the dancers’ complex movement is contained in a structure that is satisfyingly neat and contemplative: there is an emotionally moving – and also, I thought, political – narrative line. Although the two people I sat with in the audience were both of the view that the work was entirely abstract and without any significant shape, it seemed to me that its strength arose from its clear story line.
Free Falling is divided into distinct sections. The overture, a solo for the magnificent Stephen Moynihan, establishes the point of reference, the “falling”, an exhausted, extinguishing anguish that must be resisted using the effortful self-delusion that it can be stopped. Then the three other dancers both together and each in turn help him recover from the falling. We learn that in fact they are all prone to fall and that they must, and do, all help each other to rise, even when they each are falling too, desperate to resist a relentless corrosion towards the inevitable. Their problem and its solution become increasingly difficult for the group to cope with. They are progressively ground down. Eventually one of their number, presumably prefiguring the fate that awaits them all, cannot continue contributing equally to their mutual assistance. Weakened, they support him as best they can until, at last, he must leave the group. The build-up of emotion – from early defiance, rage, resistance, through effort and tender concern, to sad empathy and resignation – works powerfully and consistently towards a tender, desolate finale.