Abandonment and Connections
“Emio Greco is dead” announced the platinum blonde (male dancer Sawami Fukuoka) after having wound her way downstage in the opening minutes of “Rimasto Orfano”. So what’s next? “Long live Emio Greco?” Well, yes and no. At seventy-five minutes “Rimasto’s” length probably was more determined by the exigencies of marketing than by the work’s intrinsic needs. Still this is a complete, self-contained and for long periods mesmerizing piece of dance.
Emio Greco/PC is the choreography duo of the Italian-born Greco, a striking ascetic looking dancer, and Dutch partner Pieter C. Scholten. The ensemble, making its Bay Area premiere, included five other dancers, Sawami Fukuoka, Barbara Meneses Gutierrez, Jordi Martin de Antonio, Nicola Monaco and Suzan Tunca.
“Rimasto Orfano” is translated as “abandoned orphan” though the English doesn’t quite catch the ambivalence between somebody having been orphaned and an orphan having been left behind. Since Greco, contrary to theatrical practice, does not dance in the final section, one wonders whether there is an connection. Is he “dead” after all? Was he left behind while his dancers continue, as the program notes, a little sophomorically, explain “the search for synchronicity—the desire for perfect unison as well as for the unity of mind and body?”
What the piece does explore, and at times brilliantly, is attempts to connect dancers to each other, and the dancer to his own being. It’s the latter which often is breathtakingly realized. It seems to be less a matter of mind versus body but two bodies, one inside the other, which are in conflict with each other. If this sounds like science fiction, there is a sense of something demonic and possessed residing inside “Rimasto”. You can almost touch the physicality of the compressing force which pushes dancers into slow deep plie or the pulley that stretches them higher than they are supposed to be able to go. They end up looking like hanging from hooks. And what keeps these stiff-legged people who dropped onto their sides from lowering their heads to the floor? When they walk on just about the tips of their toes, they seem to almost surprised. What got them there? Arms—seemingly disconnected from the rest of the body—windmill at ridiculous speeds, Greco’s head spins so fast or he bangs it against the ground that you wonder whether the human anatomy can support that kind of punishment. At other moments, wave-like spasms travel through the torso without the dancer apparently having anything to do with them. To create the illusion of being at the mercy of such forces as convincingly as these six dancers do is an exceptional accomplishment. It’s also emotionally gripping.
The other part of the equation—bringing dancers together for some kind of fragile, though mostly failed unity—is choreographed somewhat more conventionally. Chaos theory butterfly effects abound when a tiny movement on one part of the stage elicits a reaction from somewhere else. A dancer might pick a movement from someone ten feet away, or pop onto the stage as if someone’s foot step had pulled him. Performers rarely touch but they nuzzle close to each other sniffing each other out. A duet might consist of two dancers using their stretched out arms like props they picked up on the way in. “Rimasto” features only two jumps, one pas de chats eliciting another. They hit like strobe lights. Despite the chaos and frantic activity “Rimasto” in many ways is minimalist. Spaciously designed, the timing imposes a strange stillness much aided by an excellent sound score by Wim Selles, based on Michael Gordon’s music.
While it is difficult to say to what extent Selles manipulated the original score, the result is effective. The music at times becomes something akin to a character imposing its commands with forceful, fragmented chords but also insinuating itself with very slow crescendos that start at the point of inaudibility and rise to near deafening levels. Selles also makes good use of the Doppler effect (the illusion of pitch changes) in approaching and receding sounds of sirens and overhead airplanes.
Clifford Portier dressed the performers in identical white floor length shirts with overlong sleeves that suggest straight jackets. Similar material was used for the set, which encloses the stage on three sides. It evoked an ice cave as well as a cocoon or an asylum.
One section in “Rimasto’s” second half referenced “Swan Lake” rather bluntly without making much sense. The slight Fukuoka partnered a very tall female dancer (unidentifiable by press time) by manipulating her leg for flutter beats and turns after which she returned the favor. He then segued into Odile’s fouettes which, sure enough, got applause from the rather sparse audience. Other references, most notably stretched up arms made to look like swan necks, appear throughout the work. Either Greco was trying to point to the absurdity of ballet’s high artifice or he referred to it as the prime example of the ultimate search for perfection and unity. Maybe it was both but neither of them convinced; one seems crude, the other obvious.