It’s a new year with new beginnings. Whilst we haven’t quite licked the pandemic just yet, it seems that streaming and how we view things will remain this way for a little longer. Let’s continue to be patient.
Dance is an acquired taste and my pallet is hungry for more. Across the North Sea, a new work of filmed dance has stunned this critic. Dancers lie on the stage as smoke drifts around them, a transgressive sight and truly one of our time. This just might be one of the finest moments of theatre I will see this year. Damien Jalet might be evoking the mood of theatre practitioner Grotowski with dancers who rarely rise to their feet, here languishing in smoky evocations. Every movement is graceful, yet feels like a mighty effort. We are forever with them in these vividly detailed moments.
This majestic, haunting sight harks to the natural features of The Netherlands, how wind and fog embellish the lowlands. Other moments felt these dancers were flung into a tornado, these bodies wading through the air. They glide around as if almost in water, poetry in slow motion feels the right descriptor. Most amazing of all, the film has no alterations in speed, these artists are moving that obtusely. I didn’t want to feel like the imagery could evoke the Holocaust, though this was hard to get out of my head. Even anime Attack on Titan came to mind, seeing these figures sprawled out and steaming at the same time.
With concept and sets by Kohei Nawa, him and Janet seem to make magic on stage with past work also eye-bulging sights. The sublime soundscape of Christian Fennes is the perfect addition to this already heightened contact. We hear foghorns, gentle and minimal looping, along with some soaring ambience. The music is worthy of it’s own release, I dare say. Shadow and projection conclude the hour long piece, with some stimulating execution with a darkly phased gleam.
In an interview seen after, Jalet, speaks of the influence of Shinto and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The afterlife or even the other-world feels true to this performance, one which wont be forgotten in a hurry. He takes pride in the birds-eye-view shot of the dancers who appears to be gracing a river, the mist here awash, both exquisite and flowing. We can’t argue with him about that.
Book to stream Mist on Nederlands Dans Theater’s website, with screenings till 8 Jan 22.