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Within (Labyrinth Within), Pontus Lidberg and Morphoses at the Joyce

November 19, 2012

Photo by Christopher Duggan. Dancers: Jens Weber; Pontus Lidberg; Gabrielle Lamb; Wendy Whelan (in film).

Within (Labyrinth Within) is a multi-leveled work, a work of varied sections that create a narrative that speaks to the heart. It is part dance, part film; the two elements are blended together creating a visual of stunning beauty.

Labyrinth Within is a film choreographed and directed by Pontus Lidberg in 2010. The film utilizes no language but the language of movement, the language of dance. It is the tale of a troubled romance/marriage between Wendy Whelan and Giovanni Bucchieri with Mr. Lidberg portraying the sensual lover of Ms. Whelan. The film was awarded “Best Picture” at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York City and the “Court Métrange du Jury Prize” at Court-Métrange Film Festival in Rennes, France last October. Within (Labyrinth Within) is an extension to this film, Mr. Pontus uses the dancers on stage to extend and enhance the story-line. The score is by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang.

We first see Mr. Lidberg lying on his side with his back to the audience, there are red flowers close at hand. He begins to slowly move, partially lifting his body off the floor as if reluctant to stand. There is both a sense of venerability as well as a silky sensualness to his movements.

He is joined by four other dancers, Gabrielle Lamb, Jens Weber, Laura Mead (who alternates with Isabella Boylston) and New York City Ballet Soloist Adrian Danchig-Waring, to create moments of great eloquence and passion. Mr. Lidberg’s choreography is a ceaseless motion of fluid lyricism with a continuous flow, the hand traveling gracefully through the air, the foot pointed and lifts through space. When facing the audience, the dancer’s body arcs from hand to toe, a gentle bending of the spine that develops into a subtle elasticity of preparedness for the next movement.

Photo by Martin Nisser. Dancer: Pontus Lidberg

Adrian Danchig-Waring and Laura Mead’s duet is a passive aggression that interplays between them. A give-take situation but with some empathy for the other, Mr. Danchig-Waring lifts Ms. Mead who yields to him but not so very willingly. We are viewing a conversation that is in progress, but seemingly by two voices speaking at the same time; neither hears the other or is even listening. But even within this give-take there is still a sense of aloneness, there is still an emotional wall that can be thrown up when needed.

A screen is seen in the back of the stage, and with it the dancers are able to appear both on stage and in celluloid. The film provides the only setting for the dance, except for the red flowers that are seen in some sections. Some duets seen in the film are performed in both an outside setting, surrounded by tall trees and then an interior setting, a room that has the feel of pre-war Europe. The duets are physical and intense, the solos move through motion that does not stop, it is not a fast motion, nor is it slow, but a constant set of movements that suspend and release the body in moments of natural breath.

Photo by Martin Nisser. Dancers: Jens Weber, Gabrielle Lamb

Brilliantly, we are shown a juxtaposition of masculine and feminine energies that alternate between the film and the stage.  It begins with an on-screen duet between Mr. Lidberg and Mr. Adrian Danchig-Waring, the duet is an intense struggle for dominance, a testing of both will and strength, a battle between alpha males. The film stops and behind the screen Gabrielle Lamb and Laura Mead are seen in a tender duet of subtle gentleness and care, each giving way to the other, mutual sharing of purpose. The two women appear as an afterimage or distant memory recently recalled. Then the filmed images of the men’s duet are seen and the again the women’s. These shifts of dynamics between the two duets are a startling display of the differences in the searching for solution between men and women.

The film Labyrinth Within takes place in a setting that is, again, in rooms that have a pre-war Europe feel. Stark and sparsely furnished the rooms are connected by open doorways, except for one, that Wendy Whelan keeps locked. A secret place she goes to retreat, a place of intimacy that her husband Mr. Bucchieri, has decided is the place Ms. Whelan and Mr. Lidberg meet for their lover’s tryst. It is open to interpretation whether the tryst between Wheelan and Pontus is real or a fragment from Bucchieri’s tortured mind, a mind that is consumed by jealousy.

Ms. Whelan and Mr. Lidberg’s tryst is captured by a duet of such searing passion and such intimacy it seems voyeuristic to witness. Each is enraptured with the other; their entire world has been encapsulated into the confines of each other’s embrace. Mr. Pontus lifts Ms. Whelan from behind, his lips are close to her ear, he gently sits her down and Ms. Whelan assumes an arabesque in plié, Mr. Pontus uses his hand to travel/explore the length her body from arm to leg.

Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow. Dancers: Gabrielle Lamb; Frances Chiaverini

Mr. Bucchieri is trying to continual reach his wife, Ms. Whelan by telephone, he is frantic with worry. Pacing his office he grabs his coat and hurries to his car, only stopping to pick up a single red flower. He seems tortured by fears of infidelity, torn by images of Ms. Whelan wrapped in the arms of another. He rushes into their apartment and then into Ms. Whelan’s room, her private retreat, but he finds her alone. We are left to wonder, did she have a lover or was the tryst between Ms. Whelan and Mr. Lidberg just tortured images of infidelity created in by Mr. Bucchieri’s insecurities…

Morphoses has bravely stepped out of the norm, under the direction of Lourdes Lopez she is guiding the company towards a new and exciting landscape. A place this is not defined by a singularity of movement or movement style nor structure but rather gives way to unique artistic visions. A different vision each year, I am excited to see whose creative artistic vision the company will give voice to next season.

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