Souls made apparent
‘Can’t stop what’s coming. Can’t stop what is on its way.’ These lyrics – from Bells for Her by Tori Amos – can be heard in The Big Crying, the world premiere by Marco Goecke that is part of Souls made apparent by NDT2. But it also touches on a through line that can be felt in the programme as a whole, seen as a live stream on 18 March: the implacable passing of time.
In 27’52” (the length of the piece from 2002) by Jiří Kylián, everything just fits. Not a second is out of place, and every part commands attention. From the flailing body of dancer Mikaela Kelly (one of the stand-outs this evening), whose face is obscured by a theatre curtain, the sharp focused movements that cut through the air, to the malleable floor that can be stripped away as if it were flayed pieces of skin. One of the centerpieces consists of three solos and one duet, in which the dancers dance to texts in English, German and French (One line reads: ‘An artist’s expression is his soul made apparent.’). The monologues are then played backwards, creating a hypnotic, otherworldly soundscape – something David Lynch also used to great effect in his ‘red room’ sequences in Twin Peaks. Likewise, the dancers also retrace their steps, in a futile attempt to turn back time.
Time which, of course, never can be reclaimed.The idea of lost time is even more potent in The Big Crying by Marco Goecke, who started making the piece shortly after the death of his father. In his works, dancers are always battling (inner) demons, dancing with his signature feverish, compulsive repetitive movements (talk about souls made apparent!) Looking at it this way, each piece can be seen as a sort of exorcism. Jessie Callaert, standing bare-chested in front of a torch, functions as a shaman. With his back to the audience, we see him welcoming the other dancers for some kind of initiation ritual. One by one, they emerge from the dark and jump up into his arms.
Goecke effortlessly interweaves the smaller, more intimate moments with bigger more intricate set pieces, enlisting all nineteen dancers (including three apprentices) of the ensemble. An ominous, rumbling and mechanical soundscape like a thundering train (Callaert is also credited with sound editing) highlights the main motifs we know so well from Goeckes earlier works: despair, pain, obsession. At one point the dancers are actually screaming.
But, there are also sudden moments of lyricism and beauty, spurred on by evocative songs by Tori Amos, from Bells for Her to Blood Roses and her contemplative rendition of R.E.M.’s Losing my Religion. The solo by Callaert in the end starts with him giving in to silent, yet earth shattering grief, but intercutting all the pain and restlessness are small moments of equilibrium and quiet. Like a fever that is finally breaking.
The most powerful scene comes at the end, when the dancers bid Callaert farewell in the final scene, a bookend of the opening sequence. No big frenetic gestures now, but the simple act of touching, a physical offering of support, which these days has become anything but simple.