Russell Maliphant’s latest work, Silent Lines, is an immersive and profoundly powerful exploration of internal and external realities, mind and body, writes Eirini Diamantouli.
Plunged into darkness, as if suspended in time and space, indistinct bodies appear and patterns begin to take shape on stage, scarcely illuminated by projections of lights. It is so that Silent Lines, the Russell Maliphant Dance Company’s latest work, begins its premiere at London’s Sadler’s Wells. Shimmering and rippling across the dancer’s bodies, the projected light gives the impression of being submerged underwater or suspended in cosmic space. The projected animations were, according to Maliphant, inspired by the ‘patterns and structures from within the body’, and thus externally reflect ‘the internal world of textures and patterns’. Under any interpretation, the aesthetic effect is transporting and immersive, enticing and commanding the imagination into a trance-like state.
The evolution of movement is in the first place organic – wide gestures fluidly morphing and flowing into one another – and in the second, mechanical – abruptly pausing, rewinding and fast-forwarding. This juxtaposition is measured enough so as not to be jarring nor disruptive to audiences’ attentions. Set against the oppositions of the music (a ‘mixtape’ which traverses the electronic and the classical designed by Dana Fouras), the performance exemplifies the capacity of the body, both physically and mentally, for contrast and contradiction symmetry and asymmetry; tension and release, stillness and flow.
As the patterns of light become more defined on the dancers’ bodies, the music intensifies and the movement takes on more pronounced forms. Now we are able to behold Maliphant’s celebrated diverse choreographic language in all its glory. Drawing from a rich palette containing break-dance, bodywork, ballet and capoeira, the choreography is absorbing, sensual and alluring.
While casting evocative shapes on the dancers’ bodies, the projections, designed by Panagiotis Tomaras, also help to create and recreate the geography of the stage, teasing dancers out of solo introspection to interact with each other and their external reality. A central duet takes place with each dancer contained within a narrow aperture of darkness. They soon break out of this frame, their bodies mixing and mingling to create an irresistible impression of juvenile discovery and play.
Perhaps the most sensually striking of all is the subsequent piece: a male dancer’s solo, set to Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. His body is captured and commanded by the music: wide, sweeping postures embody the expansive lyricism of Chopin’s language and frenetic twists and shuffles explore the music’s melodic flexibility.
Finally, the other dancers join him to construct group formations that harken back to the initial scene thus creating an impression of cyclicity that speaks to the pieces’ marriage of internal and external reality: the mind and the body; the body and nature.
Here, the shimmering reflection of lights cover the dancer’s bodies once more. This time the lights appear different somehow, as if depicting the shade cast by leaves under a shining sun. As the light slowly fades and the dancers are suspended in the resonance of the final note, the sun slowly sets and the profound power of Maliphant’s work, in collaboration with Dana Fouras and Panagaiotis Tomaras, is left to linger.
Read Eirini Diamantouli’s interview with Russell Maliphant here.