Some may call it risqué, others may see it as sensual, but both would be oversimplifications of the powerful display of emotions as interpreted into body movements by the Tania Pérez-Salas Compañia de Danza Contemporañea.
During their debut performance in the Middle East, the young contemporary dance company of 10 men and women gracefully commanded the stage of the Gomhouria Theater on Thursday – and what a unique Valentine’s Day celebration it was.
On the pitch black stage came slowly rolling a large disc with two female dancers strapped on, curled up into a ball then moving gently in a dreamlike manner. Warm lighting directed at the rolling disc came on for seconds at a time before it went dark again, and it was as if the dancers were floating on air across the stage.
Thus began “The Hours, a contemplative performance on the nature of femininity and the ties that bind relationships between women. The dance is an emotive, impressionist interpretation of the sensations spurred by Michael Cunningham’s novel of the same name as well as Alessandro Baricco’s “Oceano Mare.
In the struggle to cope with their inhibited lives and break away from conventions, the women find themselves weighed down by the pressures of daily life. Their one true desire is to be able to freely express their sexuality.
At many times, theirs is an inner battle, but it is mostly one with the outside world and women’s roles as strictly defined by society. Perez-Salas cleverly interprets these conflicts and desires into a lush palette of modern dance that portrays the anguish, passion and beauty of the female spirit.
On an otherwise dark stage, a spotlight illuminated a woman donning a large ball gown with a tight-fitting corsage and an oversized skirt. Throughout her solo – a gloriously frantic dance of the arms – the overpowering dress seemed to be rooting her to the stage as she fought to break free, exemplifying the distress of a woman trying to escape a shackled existence.
In the following segment, two more female dancers emerge from the exaggerated skirt and, joined by the cloth of their dress, the three put on a playful expression of women going about their daily lives. The dancers are not perfectly in sync and throughout, each attempts to dance to her own tune before falling quickly back in stride with the other two.
The dancers personify the three main characters in “The Hours, and more than just a custom, the dress is used as a prop to highlight the bond they share even as each attempts to find her own pace with the music.
In the next piece, more female dancers took to the stage giving a passionate performance with fabric hanging from the ceiling. They spun around as they skillfully tried to control the twisted fabric, climbing up a few inches before dropping to the floor once again, highlighting a doomed persistence. Their attempts to use the fabric to climb out of their desperation fail as they coil themselves up in the rope, and, in the final crushing scene – staying true to the ending of the novel – the dancers hang desperately from their waists.
The next set titled “Anabiosis is inspired by Octavio Paz’s “Amor y Erosmo, la Llama Doble (Love and Eroticism: the Double Flame). The dance dissects the powerful, engrossing nature of love in all its forms, its affect on the individual and the way in which it translates to fit into their surroundings.
In the sultry, fiery performance, dancers flow on and off the stage. The male and female dancers, scantily clad in black customs, show the audience all the emotions love brings about, both the negative and the positive.
The performers separate and quickly find their way back to each other sometimes in a tender, intimate manner, and other times forcefully and with complete abandon. We see glimpses of erotic scenes as the performers move together languidly.
Pools of light flood the vast dark spaces on stage, dimming and glowing, sometimes highlighting only the dancers’ silhouettes. The lighting plays a crucial role in emanating the emotions expressed by the dancers.
After a short intermission, choreographer Pérez-Salas introduced “The Waters of Forgetfulness, a dance which the company is most famous for, normally performed on a stage filled with 500 gallons of water.
After thanking her home country of Mexico and its ambassador in Egypt, Pérez-Salas told the audiences this is the first time since its premier that the dance will be performed without water due to technical difficulties at the Gomhouria Theater. She told the audience downheartedly to “imagine a mirror of water, the most powerful, vital resource on the planet.
Surely enough, throughout the performance it seemed as if the dancers were drawing their strength from the imaginary pools of water: In the electrifying opening scene, the light shines on one male dancer as his body convulses and it was easy to imagine the ripples his body movements would normally cause in the water.
The magnificent show ends with sand pouring down on the dancers from the ceiling to the sound of the audience’s thunderous applause.