Merlin – Project Arts Centre – Review by Frank L.
Produced by Iseli- Chiodi Dance Company
Until March 30th, 2019
There are increasing signs of vibrant and sophisticated performing arts being created in parts of Ireland which are not associated historically with such activity. Involved in this activity has been the partnership of Alexandre Iseli and Jazmin Chiodi who have been responsible for the Tipperary Dance Platform for over a decade. That is an integrated year-round programme for the development of dance which creates an international dance festival in Tipperary in October. Merlin is a new piece for five dancers, the concept and artistic direction of which has been devised by Iseli and Chiodi while the choreography was created by the cast, which consists of Iseli and Chiodi together with Clara Protar, Sarah Ryan and Kiko Lopez.
When the piece begins the stage lights operate but so slightly the audience has to peer through the Stygian gloom which is all pervading. There can be seen, but only barely, on one side of the stage a group of figures, how many is difficult to guess, who writhe around each other in some irregular manner impossible to determine. Achingly slowly, they make their way across the stage to a vertical panel. The group disappears behind the panel but there emerges a nymph-like girl of great fragility, semi naked with her torso covered in some white paste but fleet of foot. She is then pursued by a male dancer who detains her in her headlong dash. He releases her and the process begins again.
The panel is in fact two panels and these are used throughout the piece to permit the various changes of atmosphere to take place. There is a constant state of flux or metamorphosis. The central figure is Merlin who is difficult to define as he takes on many guises with a grin which the programme describes as ‘mischievous’ but is in reality more diverse than that. There is an original musical score by Oscar Mascarenas which accentuates the fact that this piece is very grounded; there are no great balletic leaps. In fact, a great deal of the movement takes place on the floor with the bodies of the performers being dragged about. You are enveloped into this strange, difficult to comprehend setting. The overall atmosphere is that of a different world, close to our world in some respects but from a very different time.
The Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company and their creative team have created a substantial piece of dance which lasts approximately an hour and a quarter. The final section felt a little too long and could have been reduced without altering the overall quality of the piece. Otherwise, it is another example of demanding, creative work being forged in rural Ireland. Tipperary County Council deserve some plaudits for their support of this imaginative, beautiful endeavour.