Weight and Weightlessness

Lyon Opera Ballet. At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Tuesday, October
24.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

Lyon1.jpgThe audience members were not the only
ones riveted to the action, the movement, and the stage when the
Lyon Opera Ballet performed to a packed Campbell Hall last week. As
two dancers gazed into each other’s eyes for longer than two beats,
they provided a moment of aching intimacy amid the evening’s first
piece, William Forsythe’s “Steptext.” The accompanying soundtrack,
Bach’s Violin Sonata in D Minor, paused with the dancers still in
motion, continuing in silence until the music began again.
Abruptly, midway through the dance, the stage was plunged into
darkness. Throughout the piece, visual displays of the tension of
action and inaction were explored with repetitive arm gestures and
alternating partner and parallel duets.

The program notes did not identify who performed in each role,
but rather listed all 31 company members’ names under that of
director Yorgos Loukos. The program thus made a statement about
their versatility, and as a group they certainly displayed an
extraordinary use of their bodies throughout the evening’s
challenging choreography.

Even when a dancer was hanging upside down by one arm over
another dancer’s shoulder — as was the case in Sasha Waltz’s
“Fantasie” — there was no sense of extraordinary effort. Instead,
vulnerability was expressed amid the seeming ease and drape of her
body. The eight dancers in this piece moved with languid grace,
like liquid gold pouring through shapes and quietly defying
gravity. Several minutes of the dancers filling the stage, with
arms outstretched, as children mimic airplanes, was surprisingly
compelling; and just when it became monotonous, the intensity
shifted. The simplicity of the final moment with one male dancer in
stillness belied the complexity of what came before.

Maguy Marin’s “Grosse Fugue” expressed a different relationship
with gravity. Four women in red skirts never stopped moving, their
tangible intensity stopping just short of frenzy, with precision
imbued in every movement, gesture, clap of their hands, and step of
their bare feet. The weight and intensity of the score was mirrored
in the dancers’ bodies.

The different vocabulary of the three pieces revealed the
expression and temperament of the three choreographers. The
selections showcased the company’s versatility and exposed each
dancer’s ease and gorgeous perfection. Overall, Loukos and company
provided a fitting launch for Arts & Lectures’ international
dance season.

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