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Morphoses World Premier of Bacchae at the Joyce

November 1, 2011
Dancer: Emma Pfaffle Photo by: Kokyat

Dancer: Emma Pfaffle Photo by: Kokyat

After reading the reviews of world premier of Bacchae, a multimedia piece that was created under by Morphoses‘ first resident artistic director, noted choreographer and stage director, Luca Veggetti, I was unsure what to expect. The critics were none to kind, especially Gia Koulas. (Ms. Kourlas’s reviews, which I now read seldom are so dark, dreary and negative, that if the celestial angels came down and tap danced on her kitchen cabinet she would give them a scathing review for being unoriginal and out-dated. Oh well…

I walked into the theater to see the curtain already up, with a lone dancer in a circular spot, moving in slow meditative movements with a haunting score in the background. The movements were almost trance like and somewhat hypnotic to witness. Then a fade to black as it became 8 o’clock.

We hear voices spoken, and a small puppet, stark and seeming very venerable appearing a pool of white light…and we are off. At first I found the piece confusing, I kept looking for a storyline of Bacchae, Euripidestragedy, the tale of Dionysus and his wreaking vengeance on the city of Thebes for refusing to admit his divinity. But it was not till I stopped trying to see a linear piece and allowed it to become the non-linear work it is did that the piece began to speak for itself.

Dancer: Frances Chiaverini Photo by: Kyle Froman

Dancer: Frances Chiaverini Photo by: Kyle Froman

The movements were fantastical, acrobatic and daunting with lots of sliding. We have Erin Lesser and her double contrabass flute that lends eeriness an almost superstitious fear that becomes patible. One dancer becomes two and then two becomes three. Words are voiced; it is a dual conversation, male and female, accusation and justification. The piece is at times stressful; this is not a light airy piano ballet by any means or stretch of the imagination. Mr. Veggetti’s experimentation is disturbing, and I do not mean that in a negative way.

Dancers enter and exit the stage into and from a black void that seems to swallow them or spits them back out. The movement becomes both fluid and saccadic at the same time. The dancers twist themselves from long lines into knots then back again. It becomes apparent that nothing is safe.

The duet with Frances Chiaverini and Adrian Danchig-Waring is one of the most exciting duets I have seen recently. It is performed on a sounding board, something unique to the production of Bacchae. As the duet steps and slides on the board it produces audio that when matched with the movement is startling and it draws you into the dance. I did not want it to end!

Dancer: Frances Chiaverini Photo by: Kyle Froman

Dancer: Frances Chiaverini Photo by: Kyle Froman

Gabrielle Lamb, as Agave was brilliant. She accurately portrays the deranged suffering that Agave is drawn into by her slaughter of her son, Pentheus. Focusing into the audience, with grief and madness on her face she whispers “I am ready, my claws are sharp”.

Yusha-Marie Sorzano as one the Maenads, the women possessed by the ecstasy of Dionysus was a tour-de-force. Thrown into the ecstasy of her madness her movements are sharp, eye drawing and so fast they leave one breathless.

This piece, for all its mixed press is a stunning piece of theater. It is a new approach to dance and I for one am grateful to Lourdes Lopez and Luca Veggetti for having the vision and courage to bring it to life.

Morphoses director and
Co-founder, Lourdes Lopez


Choreography and stage design,  Luca Veggetti.

Original Music and sound design,  Paolo Aralla.

Text adaptation and dramaturgy, Lucas Scarlini.

Costume design, Luca Veggetti and Benjamin Briones.

Lighting design by Rodrick Murray.

Flutes, Erin Lesser

Puppeteer, Candice Burridge

Voice, Eva-Maria Kuhrau

World Premiere, October 21, 2011, The Joyce Theater

Set Contruction, I. Weiss


Sarah Atkins

Yusha-Marie Sorzano

Brittany Fridenstine-Keefe

Frances Chiaverini

Gabrielle Lamb

Emma Pfaeffle

Christopher Bordenave

Brandon Cournay

Adrian Danchig-Waring

Willy Laury

Morgan Lugo


The Joyce Theater

From → Dance

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