Livestream from Theater ‘t Eilandje, Antwerp
March 21, 2021
Choreographer, Andonis Foniadakis’ new work, Palmos, comes at an auspicious moment: the optimistic arrival of the first buds of spring coinciding with the anniversary of the pandemic. The dancers on stage are so unashamedly close, with limbs intertwining and bodies wrapping, that it seems an act of defiance against the world of new normal.
Foniadakis works on a broad canvas, on a stage alive with movement, extravagant and relentless he crafts a series of small gems. The dancers of Opera Ballet Vlaanderen relish the challenge, diving into his no-holds-barred approach to dance. The innovation in the contact and partnering is phenomenal as limbs weave complicated patterns or swing wide to carve an arc in the air. The predominantly earthed movement is contrasted by high aerial lifts or a quick pirouette on pointe. Most atypical is the male duet from Morgan Lugo with Daniel Domenech dancing on pointe, the unfamiliar pairing finding new validity.
The work for fourteen dancers opens with a male solo of serpent-like fluidity, others join, all dressed in the simplicity of flesh toned leotards against an unbounded backdrop of constantly shifting lights and colours. The dancers find individual expression but share the pulsing dynamics as though governed by a force of nature. Like a dance equivalent of white-water rafting, bodies fly, cascade and rebound. It’s riveting stuff of hypnotic potency.
Change is a constant in Palmos. A background of reflective panels pulls the focus onto images of fragmented bodies in shards of brilliant light. Dancers form partnerships that dissolve and reform in endless variety, technically brilliant and never losing pace. The songs of Active Child, (Pat Grossi) are woven together by Julien Tarride in a score of magical sounds.
Sakis Birbilis’ virtuoso lighting is a constant delight shifting the mood with horizontal bands of colourful neon light or shaping a frame in strips of regular white neon for a turbulent male quartet with Tarride’s metallic sounds driving the action.
For the tenuous pairing of Morgana Cappellari and Misako Kato, where bourrées on pointe add a nervous edge, Birbilis creates a golden atrium, comprising an iridescent base with checkerboard of gold squares behind. Memorable also was Ruka Nakagawa, framed by facets of sapphire blue, her solo a study in conflict where fierce passions conflict with gentle sounds. The length of each vignette is perfect, enough to savour the moment then gone and leaving you wanting more.
Foniadakis has structured the kaleidoscope of movement and sound, with masterly skill. Palmos culminates in maelstrom of bodies under a battery of spotlights, dancers pair up astride shoulders as Claudia Gil Cabus and Aaron Shaw emerge from the ensemble for a profoundly intimate final duet, bare footed and Cabus long hair flying free. It’s an epiphany moment, finding emotional depth and virtuosic brilliance to the very pertinent song, ‘Wake Me When It’s Over ‘.