Catherine Young Dance – Ultima Thule – Project Arts Centre – 14 April 2016-16 April 2016 8.00pm – Review by Stephen McDermott
Ultima Thule is the highest degree attainable, the farthest point or the limit of any journey. Originally it referred to the distance locations beyond the borders of the known world. In Catherine Young’s new dance piece of the same name, the limits are of a more existential nature, referring instead to the borders of the human mind and the journey into the human psyche.
It’s a journey that begins in almost complete darkness, with a dim light focusing on a number of shuffling feet moving across the stage. The Project Arts Centre becomes a thundering blend of African drumbeats and electronic sounds, as dancers move in a playful set piece that sees individuals coalesce into a single group and back again. But soon, dissonant sounds and breathing noises replace the harmonious music. Bodies move harshly in dim light and sharp gestures convey frustration and struggle, as the movements suddenly fall out of sync and the stage becomes an almost repressive space for the performers.
It’s a mesmerising transformation, one which creates a tension between the origins of mankind and that of our concept of the individual. Indeed, Young’s excellent choreography and the stark contrast in styles between pieces forces the audience to explore the various contradictions that define modern life. Liberty can be oppressive; the synthetic has become natural; and modernity has heralded the dawn of a new dark age.
Though its movements can sometimes seem repetitive and certain sections drag a little, Ultima Thule remains an engaging exploration of human nature, pitting the singular nature of individualism against one’s place within wider society. Its movements are wonderfully worked-out, perfectly soundtracked and performed by dancers who don’t put a foot wrong throughout. Ultimately, it’s a piece that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of the contradiction that “we are all human.”
Choreographer: Catherine Young
Dancers: Ivonne Kalter, Anna Kaszuba, Anna Mari Keskinen, Marion Cronin, Magdalena Hylak
Music: Michael Fleming (composer) in collaboration with Brian Fleming (percussion), Michelle O’Rourke (vocals), Martin Schärer (percussion) and Fiona Sheil (additional sound design)
Lighting Design: Tim Feehily
Marketing and PR: Conall Ó Riain
Image: Luca Truffarelli