Christine Müller-Welt attended the Origen Festival Cultural to see the latest production by Juliano Nunes, she shares her impressions about LACUNA here.
I saw two performances of LACUNA - a new dance creation by Juliano Nunes. It was presented as a part of the Swiss summer Origen Festival Cultural - the first night on 4 August and the third and penultimate performance on 6 August.
Expectations were very high, after all the cast lined up for this piece was pretty exceptional: five top-level dancers from as many companies or free-lancing: Alina Cojocaru, Daniel Camargo (now ABT), Shale Wagman (Munich), Nayara Lopes (Philadelphia) and Derek B. Dunn (Boston). Almost needless to say my expectations were met, if not surpassed, which, I believe, was due not least to the extraordinary venue, the Julier Tower - a striking temporary wooden theater building, which, owing to its location on a pass surrounded by breathtaking alpine scenery, has a permitted life span of only five years. There is a foyer and even an improvised bar on the ground floor where the Origen Festival organizer Giovanni Netzer and choreographer Juliano Nunes gave a brief introductory interview. The stage is located on the first floor with two rows of seating (plus more seating in the arched window niches behind them) along the perimeter of a round platform with a diameter of 10 meters that is suspended from chains so that it can be hoisted up or down. More seats are provided on another level about six or seven meters or so above the stage. I sat on the first floor in rows 1 and 3 on the two nights respectively; row 1 is literally an arm’s length away from the stage/dancers with the head just above platform level, a position which was much better than it may sound and was very close to the action.
The dancers entered the stage from the doors of the different staircases in the tower and had to step rather precariously across a small gap between the built seating area and the suspended
The dancing was very much in the classical style with the ladies in pointe shoes, but in Juliano Nunes’ highly fluid and as I always find very musical choreography which consisted of a number of different pas de deux, pas de trois or even with all five protagonists on stage.
Because a stage as small as this one does not permit much jumping, the focus was more on pas de deux with bodies intertwining, some truly spectacular, innovative lifts that were beautifully set and executed to the music and solo work, and very few jumps, actually there were more jumps on the first than on the third night.
The evening began with Alina warming up and tentatively marking out steps to the sounds of an orchestra getting tuned and transitioned into Alina’s solo to the Myrtha entrance music, from where one dance segued into the next with a recovery pause in between for the dancers to regain some breath, I guess.
As explained by the choreographer during the introductory talk, he chose to call the piece LACUNA (which in the Rhaeto-Romance language spoken in this part of Switzerland means gap) because he felt he had reached a phase in his life where he was a bit at a loss at what should come next, a period of indecision perhaps. So rather than the contemporary pieces he had created for the Origen Festival in the past, he decided to invent new dances/steps to a string of classical ballet numbers, including some pieces with music by Luke Howard, and developed them together with these fantastic dancers.
Wonderful, just how the choreography played to the strengths and fitted the personality of the different dancers to a tee – dreamy, introverted, completely authentic (Alina), powerful in its movements and with a very strong stage presence (Daniel), highly charismatic look-at-me, long- limbed and elegant (Nayara), full-of-longing princely perfect in all his movements (Derek) and the ever-surprising virtuoso creative (Shale).
In terms of dance-fireworks on display in this small confine there were some incredibly various-speed pirouettes which transformed into arabesques, especially from Derek and Shale, and the aforementioned lifts, all brilliantly timed and executed to the music. What I found even more impressive, though perhaps, was the dancers’ ability to completely focus on their performance, to get totally absorbed in their dance, express emotions, tell miniature stories as though they were performing on a much bigger theatre stage, casting their magic spell over the audience.
Standouts for me on the first night were the Nutcracker pas de deux performed by Nayara and Shale, Derek’s solo to Sleeping Beauty who really took me by surprise with his immaculately executed, beautifully expressive and in-the-role lyrical dancing. I was very much impressed by the Dying Swans pas de deux danced by Derek and Shale: rarely perhaps have two male swans could have expired more beautifully and believably than these two, down to the clawed fingers and last breaths exhaled in perfect unison at the end of LACUNA. No doubt, this would make a great gala number.
On my second visit everything had fallen into place more and some seeming inconsistencies rounded out, and there was a good deal less stage fog. There was a very impressive statuesque solo danced by Daniel, beautiful pizzicato pointe work by Nayara dancing to Nikya’s temple music, unforgettably musical and heartfelt dancing from Alina and Daniel which flowed so naturally and beautifully, you could see Daniel’s face beaming with joy and pleasure and with Alina celebrating her highly emotional, pitch-perfect artistry. During the intro Juliano said you
never know what to expect from Shale and so it proved to be: incredible pirouettes, indescribable and inexplicable turns all the while with beautifully sculpted hand movements that make you believe that such things as gravity and balance do not exist, at least not for some people. And, of course, again, the Dying Swans at the end… almost a classic already!
Next year is the last year in which the Julier theater will be up there on the pass, so don’t miss the opportunity!
Text: Christine Müller-Welt
Photo: Origen Festival Cultural
Video: Juliano Nunes YouTube channel