Homage to Salvador Dali | Compagnia Finzi Pasca & “La Verità” at BAM, May 4-7, 2016….
In 1944 Salvador Dali collaborated with Leonide Massine, originally from Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, on the ballet “Mad Tristan.”. It was inspired by Wagner’s 1865 opera “Tristan and Isolde.” For the first act Dali created a twenty-seven by forty-five feet backdrop that in 2009 was found in a box stored at the Metropolitan Opera. It is Dali at his best with what, I have read, is supposed to be Tristan holding a dandelion that partial covers his face while grasping something (his heart?) to his chest. Before him stands a macabre Isolde with her head swathed in mummy-like bandages and her very large claw-like hands are reaching out to Tristan. This backdrop was the inspiration for “La Verità.”
“La Verità” is the brainchild of the Swiss contemporary circus maverick Daniele Finzi Pasca and Julie Hamelin Finzi. BAM presented this mesmerizing theatrical homage to Salvador Dali as part of its 2016 Winter/Spring Season.
Now I must be brutally honest…it is seldom that I am so immersed in a performance that I am literally on the edge of my seat, especially for the whole performance. Sections of a dance or theatrical work…yes…but never a whole performance…Well, La Verità did just that.
OK, perhaps there was one other occasion in which I sat on the edge of my set for the whole of the performance….it was when I was 9 and my parents had taken me and my brother to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus….I remember it still…I was transfixed….
To say La Verità was a tad surrealist would be an understatement. Piano playing hippos, yes, I said piano playing hippos, a male contortionist that twisted his body in such a way I was unsure which was his front and which was his back…until he used his knees to stand. I mean, really…how many times have you witnessed someone twist their torso almost a full 360 degrees…
Have I mentioned the feathers, there were a flurry of feathers…actually a flurry of white (perhaps ostrich) feathers…people kept running on and off the stage either wearing feather headdresses and/or carrying large Vegas show girl type feather fans or carrying feathers arranged in what appeared to be a dandelion…and just in case you craved more feathers…..the entire cast appears in tutus made from white (again, perhaps ostrich) feathers except for one fellow…after all we all know at least one non-conformist … David Menes is wearing a red (I bet there’re ostrich) feathered tutu, he’s of slight build with a bald head and he is wearing pointe shoes….you can’t miss him, he appears in this elaborate get-up sporadically through-out the performance…and I almost forgot…when he is en pointe his legs are bent and turned in such away so he appears more than a little bow-legged.
Absurdity runs rampant throughout this mad mix of circus, vaudeville and physical theater…but there are also moments of divine beauty. After some death defying roller skating in which Jean-Philippe Cuerrier spins in mad circles with poor Moira Albertalli’s body contorted in every position they could think of. Mr Cuerrier evens says at one point…you know this is very dangerous…well not so much for me…but for her it is very dangerous!
As the duo are finishing up their act, while the audience is clapping and shouting, a white grand piano is rolled on to the stage. A woman comes out and elegantly takes a seat and starts to play sublimely. Soon afterwards a woman joins her on stage and begins to sing a hauntingly tender ballad in Italian (or I think it was Italian…)….
A woman tumbles and rolls on to the stage, she is in all-white and has several white hoops, she is soon joined by a man, then several men…all are accompanied by one or several white hoops. The man and the woman start to roll the hoops and manipulate them so they move in a perfect circle always returning to where they started. While the hoops are traveling in wide arcs the two began to move acrobatically, creating moments of intense beauty. The man starts to manipulate five to six hopes, sending them in complicated patterns around him. Between the piano playing, the Italian ballad and everyone in white with the white hoops…there was a deep sense of serenity on the stage…it was wonderful to watch….
After various segments of the performances Dali’s backdrop is lowered. It acts as a comma does in a sentence. It is used to separate different aspects of the work…
When the backdrop comes down, as a rule, Rolando Tarquini would come on stage. Throughout the performance he provides us with a witty dialogue, a conversation if you will of what is about or has occurred on stage, what is going on backstage the we cannot witness inter-spliced with delicious bits of gossip. Or that’s what I think he is saying…he has such a thick accent that I can only catch a word or two out of every five or six…regardless of whether he can be understood or not…his manner of story-telling is priceless!
Another sublime moment of grace and beauty was when aerialist Francesco Lanciotti performed on the silks. He moved with such grace and daring, his shoulder length hair would accentuate his movements adding an organic curve or arc to the ending of everything he did. He performed feats that took untold strength and made them as if it was mere play for him. Holding a silk band with one hand he would twist his body forward, back and out to the side….doing all this with his body parallel to the floor…It was an inspired performance and I am richer for having experienced it…Bravo Mr. Lanciotti, bravo indeed….