Imagine a dance routine where not once do we see the performer’s head, and you are lured in by a mysterious soundscape while sitting in darkness for 16 minutes before any actual choreography kicks in. Such is the ephemeral technique of Vessel, blending abstract sculpture, ambient music and symbiotic dance.
An evocative exploration of the force of gravity and the relationship between the movement of muscles, the production is enhanced by a visceral liquid floor of water that signifies both the real and surreal worlds. With an eerie soundscape as minimalist as the set, this show is hypnotic, transforming the audience to another world, another time, and inducing a journey of different states – from chaos and tension to quiet and tranquility.
There are allusions to Japanese mythology in the stage design, such as a crater filled with bubbling white liquid akin to a skin, as well as nods to Buddhism (the worshipping of sacred mountains and Shintu philosophy): ideas explored as the dance mutates to promote how we evolve from organic matter to solid mass, to liquid form.
The metaphor of birth and rebirth surfaces as the dancers’ bodies morph into transmigrating shapes – a reference to a sculpture that set designer Kohei Nawa made in Japan.
French choreographer, Damien Jalet, uses the sculpture as inspiration, creating movement and art through a radical approach, adopting geometric shapes that actually follow mathematical algorithms timed to the music. The result is physically challenging – body contortions in a most original and distinctive way.
Gender, race and age all blur, enabling the audience to create new meaning. Jalet hoped to evoke our imagination to explore the complexity of existential being and immortality. Rebirth, life and death are questioned in relation to the concept of evolution, as the lumps of flesh conjure at once insects, arachnids and even zombie-like, headless creatures.
The question and answer after the show was truly inspiring and informed the audience of the scale of the project and the mythology that connected the set scape with the human movement.
An awesome work created by two amazing kindred artists. See it if it ever returns to town. Annette McCubbin
‘Vessel’ was part of the Perth Festival 2018.