November 9, 2018
Scottish Ensemble and Andersson Dance invite their audience into their superb and buoyant new work, Prelude – skydiving from a dream, the second collaboration between these two creative forces.
The musicians commence the evening host-like as they informally enter the stage and beam at their audience. Already their very presence is opposite to that seen in formal concert venues: each of them is wearing their own individual outfits, which are bright and shimmering, and even include a few trainers. They have no conductor, instead taking cues from director Jonathan Morton who plays violin on stage. These cues are both aural and visual, such as a nod, a large intake of breath or a flurry of bows, giving Prelude a sense of elasticity and ease. They ricochet through Bach, Beethoven and Lutoslawski, their playing razor sharp and fiendishly adept.
The first dancer, Clyde Emmanuel Archer, manifests on stage as he walks through the retreating musicians and there is a moment of incomprehension as we move from the language of sound to that of dance. This disorientation emphasizes Archer’s outstretched arms and our attempts to interpret (is he pleading?). His graceful sweeps and extensions have a quietly lulling effect, a contrast, though not a jarring one, to the individual qualities of the other two dancers. Hokuto Kodama dances sprite-like across the stage, his jumps daringly horizontal. Ida Holmlund has a nimble precision, and an intricacy of limbs and disconnections between her joints that is fascinating to observe.
That choreographer Örjan Andersson has repeated many of the movement motifs feels not only apt for a piece that engages with classical music. It is also a subtle validation of contemporary dance, a vindication that there is a language on stage, and that this language can speak, create a sense of time and development, spark emotions and even tell stories.
Prelude is not simply these two art forms alternating on stage, however, but an evening of interchangeability, of new configurations, responses and stagings of all the artists on the show. In these symbiotic moments, something truly special emerges. In one scenario, the musicians skitter around each other, trying to get each other’s attention, when Archer leaps onto the stage and causes them to part. It is a wonderful moment of the divine joining the quotidian.
Each dancer then follows with their own solo surrounded by the musicians, who create a flexible border that shifts with the movement. It’s not only an intelligent collaborative device, it’s an innovative and exciting way of viewing dance: no longer is the dancer in a distant, irreproachable place of impossible technique. Rather, they are in a fluid space that expands and contracts with their movements, a space that creates reverberations of rhythm, direction and intent and gives the audience a heightened sense of the dancer’s physicality.
Prelude – skydiving from a dream is first and foremost a collaboration, and, in many ways, nothing more or nothing less. While there are themes of chaos and complexity, as drawn from the music, Prelude does not place its collaborators under the dictates of a larger narrative or theme: they coexist, play and respond. But when such talent, perseverance and willingness comes together from artists and performers, the audience is privileged and experiences moments of transcendence. In the final minutes, the musicians move to the front of stage for a spellbinding final crescendo before the dancers join them to receive their due applause.