Arts contributor Marion Beauchamp-Levet is enchanted by The Knot, the latest production from Didy Veldman’s company Umanoove.
On Thursday 8 November 2018, at 7:30 p.m., the Mumford Theatre in Cambridge temporarily metamorphosed into an enchanting place, gathering about sixty guests to celebrate the wedding of Didy Veldman’s dance company, Umanoove, and their new show, The Knot. All were mesmerised by the seven performers’ grace and lightness. Simply put, magic overwhelmed the audience, the stage, the world, for about an hour and goodness, how lovely it all was!
Of course, it’s not an easy task to add magic to a wedding. Word has it that every wedding is magical (or at least supposed to be so), that such a ceremony is necessarily a little escape from the gloominess of one’s life. After all, the celebration of love is usually, literally, an enchanting feast for the senses! Yet, Veldman out did herself in creating a dance-theatre performance that transported her audience into a world of beauty and harmony. The very first scene set the tone: seven dancers (three women and four men) slowly dressed for the occasion and showed how everyday gestures could be filled with grace and simple beauty. For simplicity is not usually celebrated, especially when it comes to the trappings of weddings; but in The Knot simple gestures, movements and visuals were highly effective and deserve to be praised. Nothing was excessive, far-fetched or too little. Veldman and her dancers hit exactly right note.
The decor also mirrored this effective simplicity of movement. Minimalist in its use of white chairs and fairy lights, Veldman’s efficacious set allowed us to fully appreciate the choreography. Similarly, the uncomplicated costumes highlighted the graceful movements of the dancers. Everything contributed to the realness of the wedding; that is, by keeping the set simple, the audience became immersed in the developing action of the piece and were pulled into the twists and turns of the wedding ritual.
Magical as it was, the performance did not fall into the conventional representation of weddings. Couples formed and came apart, playing with ideas on gender and social expectations to often comic effect. And what may at first start as attraction between a couple could soon turn to doubt; the rigours of ritual were often followed by brave bursts of spontaneity. Getting married has rarely been portrayed with such variety. Delicate touches of humour brought relief to moments of tension, which deepened the plot.
In the end, it was impossible not to have a happy ending. What is always striking in contemporary dance is a dancer’s ability to communicate without language. In The Knot, emotions were so easily conveyed by and between the dancers, thus implicating the audience in the overall emotion of the piece. The company even managed to physically involve the audience by inviting us to join them onstage and demonstrate our own talent for dancing, rejoicing with them in the celebration. The fourth wall was virtually absent, but in no way was this embarrassing. On the contrary, and again thanks to an incredibly well-executed, simple language of movement, this big day was pulled off with ease, finesse and, most importantly, fun!
The wedding we attended at the Mumford Theatre was nothing but joy and enchantment. On leaving, I felt my spirit lifted by Veldman’s and Umanoove’s celebration of love. It’s always a shame when magic ends, but then again this is what makes it so special.
Didy Veldman’s and Umanoove’s The Knot was performed at the Mumford Theatre, Cambridge, on the 8th November 2018. For more information on Veldman and Umanoove, click here.