Bugs and Worms and Desire
TAPAC - The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Auckland
25/11/2017 - 26/11/2017
Solo , Dance ,
A journey excruciating yet triumphant
Review by Susi Hadassah 28th Nov 2017
Ahhhh… Jenny has done it again… moved me beyond myself and taken me to a place, a plane, that only exists outside of the natural realm. As I leave the theatre, albeit reluctantly, I am in one sense exhausted and in another invigorated. I feel as if I have borne witness to something extraordinary and I am wrung out emotionally, but left with a tangible sense of divine peace. Something sacred has occurred here, in this intimate and welcoming space and I cannot but leave there, changed.
Since April, a mere seven months, both works; Swimmer and Bugs and Worms and Desire, have evolved most exquisitely.
For Swimmer, Jenny has found a dance partner, Dhruv Mody, who despite his complete lack of formal dance training, moves, lifts and partners her with a ‘knowingness’ that is both rare and profound. His flawless musicality and almost panther-like grace honours Jenny and her choreography with a kind of effortless and entrancing sensitivity. In Dhruv’s arms, Jenny is secure, fully confident and she dances with a new surety that is delightful to watch. I see a rare glimpse of an often hidden joie de vivre – that inexplicable joy of dance that is so evident in Jenny’s being. Under the lovely simplicity of a lighting design by Calvin Hudson, moments of pure magic are captured beautifully. The space that is so considerately designed for dance affords the accompanying backdrop of Jenny’s screen-self; the work of Vernon Rive, to add a dynamic of synchronicity that contributes without subtracting from the scene played out in the foreground. Similarly, the music of Oliver Tank and James Blake brings another quality to the work that enhances its mesmerising atmosphere. However, it is Jenny, dressed in the ethereal costuming of Olga Khimitch in brilliant contrast to Dhruv’s stark blue simplicity; these two dancers themselves, that stand out for me. The beauty of their connectedness and the way that they communicate with each other and with us, the viewers, has brought this piece to a new height and depth.
In the paradoxical way that often defines Jenny’s work, Swimmer both prepares you and leaves you completely under-prepared for the deeply emotional and spiritual journey she takes you on in Bugs and Worms and Desire. Implicit in every intricate movement, every tiny gesture is the unfolding of the miraculous fragility and vulnerability of ‘life’ in the diminutive form of “… a couple of ounces of bones and feathers…” (Anthony Doerr, 2014). This work and its remarkable evolution deftly expose the very essence of Jenny’s enduring characteristics and reveal her unique style and breathtaking technical mastery.
The journey, just as excruciating as it is triumphant, captivates and transfixes the audience. There is nothing rushed about this piece. The control and timing are impeccable and there is discernable intention in every tiny bird-like movement. At times, I would find myself holding my breath and times where I nodded in assent – pivotal epiphanies, as this solitary bird endures the infinite dangers it must overcome on the way to its destiny. This is indeed a theatrical work; as much a dance as it is an incredible feat of acting.
Accompanied by the musical sounds of Walter Carlos, it has been newly enhanced by the unimaginably sensitive playing of Karen Plimmer on her Celtic harp, with uncanny timing for a blind musician. As Jenny’s bird-self cries out for sustenance, the eerie vocals of Karen echo her pleas in a stunning primal symphony. In one magical moment, Calvin transforms the stage into a womb-like nest as we witness the bird’s humble gratitude for its feast of bugs and worms. Personally, this marks a metamorphosis in the work. Suddenly, all trace of fragility disappears as Jenny’s dancing takes on strength, exuding an almost supernatural power. Barely leaving the ground, she soars into the sun and as she reaches her destination, Calvin’s lighting captures and holds the ‘still-point’ Jenny is renowned for.
As I leave the auditorium, my eye catches again, a quote by the late Pina Bausch that hangs in the foyer which aptly sums up the night’s performance: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.”
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