Sadler’s Wells, London
September 30, 2019
La Fresque (The Painting on the Wall) is a slight tale borrowed from an old Chinese story, The Mural. It tells of a young man visiting a temple who becomes entranced by a painting of a beautiful woman with long dark hair. What happens next is a fantasy as the man is absorbed through the picture and into a parallel world that gives vivid scope to Angelin Preljocaj’s choreography. In the final moments, back in the temple, the young man is helped to his feet by his friend as he has fallen to the floor. He looks at the woman in the picture, but now her hair is pinned back and adorned with a red flower, a sign of marriage.
The ballet opens in the real world as two men, dressed in no-nonsense trousers and braces, dance in unison, their movements weighty but agile, a neat contrast with the otherworldly. The creative team from Constance Guisset Studio quietly begin to create this magic space projecting strands of hair on gauze that wrap and wind to become enveloping waves. Black robed dancers enter and engage with the men drawing them on. Screens shift to frame a stage within the stage and focus the action with directorial skill drawing us deeper into the illusion. The invention is inexhaustible and Preljocaj’s movement vocabulary is a joy.
A carousel of women, circled around Mirea Delogu, catch the young man’s gaze. The movement starts as a play of gestures incorporating their flailing hair, a motif that develops into a rhythmic dance and the man is ensnared. There are sections of joyous energetic movement initiated by a solo from Delogu, her vibrant character matched by her versatile, skilled technique. Building to the climax the hair, now ropes descending from the flies, wraps around the bodies to add another dimension. Like trapeze artists, the dancers fly in aerial harmony.
The duets introduce a more thoughtful mood. Is it the woman herself he loves or merely the representation of beauty? Preljocaj only suggests, touching lightly on the theme then moving on. There are hints too of ritual as dancers don corrugated masks or become warrior gods. Through all these permeations Nicolas Godin, music supports and carries the movement and the mood.
La Fresque is a captivating evening of dance interpreted by a superb team of ten dancers.