This play consists of two distinct works: the 10-minute I:Solo followed by the 40-minute title piece.
In I:Solo an officious man seated downstage orders a dancer to delimit a square on the floor with what appear to be long flat rulers. She then dances from a tall stool that offers her movement a conspicuous three-dimensionality.
The dancer quickly falls from this perch and is then directed into the square she created at the beginning of the piece. She dances again, this time within the two-dimensional limits of the square, whose area is progressively reduced by a woman who acts as an assistant to the man giving orders.
We can see where this will end. Forced into the stifling restrictions of a dictatorship, her arena for artistic expression will shrink to a point where no movement is possible.
It's a stark, symbolic piece that acts as an overture to the more layered Storm and Silence, which concerns a Dresden dancer named Lorelei.
Dresden is sadly famous for its devastation by allied bombing in World War II and subsequent absorption into the Soviet block as part the GDR (former East Germany) where it was rebuilt to become an industrial centre of Communist Europe. (I just learned from Google that in his formative years with the KGB in the 1980s, Vladimir Putin was stationed in Dresden to recruit spies.)
As such, Dresden provides a powerful metaphor for civilian vulnerability and totalitarian control. Again, this is largely a dance piece, and thematically nuanced rather than plot driven.
Lines are spoken with the repetition of strophic song, but these lines soon break into fragments that dissolve meaning into pure sound; which blends effortlessly with a mix of instrumental music, both live and recorded; which in turn blends effortlessly with the dance choreography.
Statements with political import are clearly forbidden. In the brief moments of the play during which we're allowed to hear complete sentences we're told: "it's always about control."
But even as words are censored and erased, new modes of expression emerge. Brief word combinations are cut and pasted and overlapped in what could perhaps be described as a 'fugue.'
And it strikes me as no accident that J.S. Bach, the German master of fugues, is quoted in the music of the violist, a performance stunningly executed by Anthony Rapoport, who's actually choreographed into the dance while he plays rather than being relegated to a symbolic 'pit' on the periphery of the action.
If I've run the risk of making the play sound over-intellectual and forbidding, that's only because I feel it rewards a knowledge of Dresden's recent history. The play can just as easily be enjoyed as a feast for the senses.
Dance is not my area of expertise, but I can assure you the choreography is by turns sensual, playful, dark, joyous, anxious and executed throughout by consummate artists.
I recommend it as a show that will satisfy whatever back story you choose to bring to it.
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