La Natura Delle Cose – Dublin Dance Festival – Review by Frank L
La Natura delle Cose choreographed by Virgilio Sieni
Run now finished – May 14th and 15th at the Abbey Theatre
This piece is inspired by the poem of Roman philosopher Lucretius ‘De Rerum Natura’. The Dublin Dance Festival included in the programme a translation of the poem into English. The programme also stated the masked character of Venus is seen at three stages of life ‘first as an eleven-year-old girl, she moves with graceful fluidity borne aloft by the four male dancers. Later she explores the world as a two year old baby and finally she is an eighty-year-old woman, her descent complete.’ The sequence of the story line is quite challenging.
Initially, the forefront of the stage is covered with an enormous opaque grey curtain. Small movements can be discerned behind the curtain which eventually reveals a magnificent horse’s head which moves as if it was peering curiously over a stable door. Then suddenly and without warning the curtain falls to the ground to reveal a vast rectangular space. It has a minimalist perfection. Hung from ceiling to floor with a light diaphanous fabric subtly lit from the top, it is beautiful.
Into this space the masked Venus (Nicola Cisternino) is borne by the four bearded male dancers. They move as if they were one entity with Venus never touching the ground. Cisternino gives the impression that her torso and limbs are without muscles, as she is handed between the men like a great Renaissance painting of Christ being brought down from the Cross. Breathtaking to watch but another thought that flashes across the brain is the physical vulnerability of a woman in a world dominated by men. However, these brief mental flashes are superseded by the constant fluidity of the movement obtained and maintained by the five dancers. They are a single entity, which is quite dazzling to behold.
Cisternino then transforms herself to being the two year old and manages to embrace uncertain movements of a child on the verge of exploring the world only to alter for the final sequence to that of an old woman whose shaky movements are of a different order.
The music of Francesco Giomi adds to the tension of the unique journey upon which Sieni carries the audience. However, there are puzzling aspects. There are two more images like the initial horse’s head. The significance of each is a challenge to fathom.
The other element is a voice-over which now and again speaks huskily a few lines. At the time it seemed that surtitles would have been helpful but on reflection given the balance achieved by the set, the movement of the dancers, Giomi’s score and the husky voice itself that such a visual aide would probably have been an intrusion destroying the complex balances which Sieni had managed to achieve on the stage.
The piece lasts considerably longer than the advertised sixty minutes but that is a positive. It is not an easy watch but it was both intense and absorbing. It creates images which keep returning to the forefront of the brain. It is a work of art, albeit a complex one.