Above: Laura Mead with Adrian Danchig-Waring in Pontus Lidberg's WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) presented by MORPHOSES at The Joyce. Photo: Nir Arieli.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Wednesday November 7, 2012 - "That was an hour of poetry," my companion Bennyroyce Royon whispered to me as the lights faded on the opening night performance of Pontus Lidberg's WITHIN (Labyrinth Within). MORPHOSES are presenting this fusion of dance and film at The Joyce thru November 11th.
'Seductive' is the word that best describes the evening for me. The dangers of duplicity are my constant companion, and the film - and the ballet it inspires - strike at the heart on a particularly personal level. And yet at the end, the unanswered question remains: how much of what transpires in WITHIN is real and how much is illusion?
For me the path to tonight's performance of Pontus Lidberg's WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) by MORPHOSES started one day in the Spring of 2010 when I came charging madly up the stairs of the 59th Street subway station and nearly collided with Wendy Whelan. "Oberon! You are in a rush!!" she exclaimed. After apologizing for almost knocking her over, I caught my breath. "And where are you off to, Wendy?" I asked her. "Joyce SoHo. I'm working on a project with Pontus Lidberg. Do you know Pontus?"
The project as it turns out was a mysterious, fascinating film entitled LABYRINTH WITHIN. In the late Summer of 2010, Wendy went to Sweden where the film was shot. When she returned, she very kindly took the time to write about her first cinematic working experience for my blog. The article is here.
Tantalizing clips from LABYRINTH WITHIN began to appear. And finally in February 2012 I got to see the finished product. The film has haunted me ever since, raising the question: how would this illusive world translate into a staged ballet?
Simply and masterfully, Pontus blends the 'live' and filmed aspects of WITHIN, aided and abetted in his creative journey by the music of David Lang. Visual motifs, such as the film's blood-red flowers growing up thru the floorboards of a castle in Sweden, translate onto the stage; entrances and exits of the 'live' dancers are timed to coincide with their appearances on film, presenting the illusion of watching the same moment from more than one perspective.
In an opening solo danced at first in silence, Pontus moves with incredible feline grace among the flowers; in his dress trousers, shirt and tie, his appearance is oddly formal yet - as his images flicker onto the overhead screen - his passion belies his staid mode of dress. In a forest, on a deserted beach, in an empty room - he is a man who is waiting for something, or someone.
As the melancholic music ebbs and flows, the other dancers appear. Gabrielle Lamb in a flame-coloured frock and stiletto pumps, seems to be the woman from the film. And Jens Weber, a handsome and aristocratic dark-haired dancer in business attire, is the husband. The second couple - Laura Mead (in blue) and Adrian Danchig-Waring - appear to embody the secret lovers of the film. The two women, representing the two aspects of the film's central character, are as different physically as two dancers could be. Yet as they move in sync in a duet passage, their connection manifests itself.
In a series of dreamlike pas de deux, the couples develop the shifting dynamics of the romantic triangle that is central to the film.
Gabrielle at last is alone with her lover/Adrian, yet their duet for all its passion is fleeting. Jens and Pontus encounter one another, their desires for the woman unsorted and unresolved. And then in a stunning moment, Wendy Whelan materializes on the large screen. She simply sits, silent and enigmatic, and we know that Labyrinth Within is about to begin.
Transition: Wendy on film, Pontus onstage.
Read about the film here. Tonight at The Joyce Labyrinth Within seemed even more poignant and meaningful than on my initial viewing of it. Things that transpired in my personal life during the Summer that has now passed away found deep resonance while watching the film this evening. Giovanni Bucchieri and Pontus Lidberg are so beautifully contrasted in their masculine attractiveness, Giovanni's luscious lips and deep dark eyes at odds with Pontus's lyrical blondeness and sculpted physique.
At the center, Wendy Whelan - Pontus's muse in the film's creation - makes a remarkable impression: while the feminine power that has always marked her onstage dancing illuminates her screen debut-performance, a tantalizing vulnerable aspect also comes into play. Mystique, beauty, poetry: Wendy epitomizes these in her own unique and memorable way, and Pontus - drawing on the ballerina's personal magnetism - has suffused the film and indeed the whole evening with a dreamlike fragrance of passion, tenderness and desire.
More of Nir Arieli's images from this production appear here.