Few works could mark International Dance Day more cogently than David Dawson’s METAMORPHOSIS, a work that captures the very essence of dance: the complete merger of music and movement within the human body.
Set to Philip Glass’s eponymous piano work, Dawson’s METAMORPHOSIS was created for Dutch National Ballet during lockdown, developed and rehearsed entirely on Zoom.
Driven by Glass’s insistent continuum of sound, gloriously played live by Olga Khoziainova, Dawson creates movement of infinite fluidity. His classical steps blend into each other so that there is never a moment of stasis, and thus become their own specific choreographic language.
Dawson asks of the 23 dancers in METAMORPHOSIS expressive arms, capable of shaping lines that become circles, now subtly quoting swan wings, now dissolving into brief windmills.
Hands extend the line of the arms, or flick upwards like punctuation marks. Flexible backs shape yearning bodies. The general atmosphere is dreamy, the dancers’ simple white costumes – plain leotards for the women, leggings and long sleeved T-shirts for the men – drawing fleeting lines against the unfathomable darkness of a naked stage, lit from above by a couple of cones of light and a double set of footlights.
And although the dreamy atmosphere permeates all five movements, each has, nevertheless, its own specific character. Metamorphosis One is a pas de deux, danced by Anna Oi and James Stout. It’s a passionate encounter from the moment the two dancers come together from opposite ends of the stage and he seems to whisper something in her ear. There is a rapturous quality to their dancing, his ardour meeting her abandon, until she, in turn, whispers in his ear and he carries her off.
Metamorphosis Two sees 10 dancers playfully evolving through different groupings, sometimes two lots of three and one of four, sometimes all dancing in unison, at other times still dancing in canon, their geometries dazzlingly precise within flows of movement the speed of which never falters.
Metamorphosis Three is a high-energy section for four male dancers, all of whom devour space with vigorous jetés, rise up in double tours en l'air, as if challenging each other to greater technical feats, driven by the ‘forte’ direction of the music.
Metamorphosis Four is danced by three couples, and here the choreography reprises some of the steps seen before, yet in their new context the steps acquire a new aesthetic. It’s all very clever and deeply engaging.
The final section is a solo, performed by Riho Sakamoto. Her dance is like the upsum of all that went before, fleet, assured, and beautifully executed.
David Dawson’s METAMORPHOSIS is a characteristically cerebral work, that never forgets the need to appeal to aesthetic emotion as well as intellect. And Dutch National Ballet, expertly filmed by Altin Kaftira, does it full justice.
|What||Dutch National Ballet, METAMORPHOSIS review|
|Where||Online | MAP|
29 Apr 21 – 29 Oct 21, Available from 29 April. Dur.: 40 mins