Encantado – Dublin Dance Festival – Review

Encantado – Dublin Dance Festival – Review

Encantado by Lia Rodrigues
at the Abbey Theatre – 20th —21st May

At the start of this production, the stage is in total darkness. Slowly, as your eyes readjust to the light, you can see a number of figures at the back wall. They slowly unfurl a long piece of cloth, the width of the stage. As the performers leave the stage, the house lights rise, and you see that it isn’t just one piece, but is actually a collection of rugs of different shapes and colours. They are made of cheap, synthetic materials and have a variety of patterns and hues. Some have zebra and tiger skin patterns, whereas others have floral motifs. The performers return naked, one by one, to the stage. They move and crawl in amongst these blankets. When they emerge, they are transformed into a variety of wild and dazzling forms.

This piece is the latest work by Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues. The word Encantado has a variety of meanings, such as enchanted or a sense of wonder. It can also refer to a number of “magical beings in Afro-American culture who are believed to traverse the natural landscape – the forests, the seas and the skies – transforming them into sacred places”. It is these creatures we encounter in this performance, as the dancers are transformed before our eyes.

The blankets were bought at a market in Rio by Lia Rodrigues. This simple concept is used to stunning effect by the performers, who wind them around their bodies, throwing up images of strange beasts, mermaids and other mythical creatures. Sometimes you see a master controlling their beasts crawling on all fours. Another time, three village women stand ten foot tall above the stage, chanting and singing. These images are fleeting, the performers move to the front of the stage briefly, before another one takes their place. There is so much happening on all corners of the stage, it is impossible to take it all in.

The musical accompaniment is “excerpts of songs of the Guarani people”. It is a strange and wonderful repetitive tune, which starts with light percussion before a heavy bass drum is added, along with simple stringed instruments and eventually a collection of human voices, chanting a number of phrases. It becomes mantra like, a spell that can’t be broken as the dancers move and sing along to this cacophony.

At times it feels like a collection of children playing dress up, as they come up with new shapes and forms, which they show to the audience. It feels random and free form, but in reality it is tightly controlled.  The music is loud, you can feel the beat vibrating as it fills your senses. It is hard not to be swept away by all this magic and make believe!

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