‘Existentia’ Origen Festival Cultural

Existentia captured the mood of the current times. Working loosely around the theme of the Holy Grail, Davidson takes the quest for the elusive chalice that has spawned a thousand mystical fantasies and roots firmly in the human condition. The universal search for happiness, and something better, is signalled first in the opening circle where passions are expressed in a furry of gesture and strong movement and, later, in the return to the circle, in a closing moment of togetherness. It gives space for six highly individual dancers, all from Ballett Zurich, to find their own path and purpose. Courtly love, noble knights and damsels in distress are passé themes, but the search for love and beauty is not. Davidson’s is modern in line, energetic and powerful with lyrical beauty. Within this well-structured 60-minute work of ensemble, trios and duets, each dancer also has solo moments of individual expression.

The costumes, by former Ballett Zurich dancer Christopher John Parker, embrace both Arthurian theme and the dancers’ individually in strikingly original designs. Suggesting armour or period dress with the merest detail on a sleeve or legging, he drops a hint that transports the imagination to a different world. Choreographer and designer work in parallel, as in the scene where the women dispense with pointe shoes and move with contemporary weight and depth. Here, Parker created long-fringed tabards to add period drama and give the movements an exhilarating after-image. The commissioned score by Jonathan Emilian Heck wove around the work. The opening atmospheric murmur that builds to a sea of sound waves yields to a string quartet interpreting music that is imaginative and acutely sensitive to the emotional shifts on the stage. Heck, with his violin, is drawn closer, even ascending the stairs to join Lucas Valente on stage. Valente supercharged the work in the most innovative and organic of solos, using the walls, stools and even momentarily usurping Heck’s seat in the pit.

Each solo finds a different register. Francesca Dell’Aria leaves a passionate relationship with Valente to enjoy dancing in elegant self-sufficiency. Michelle Willems’ emotionally-charged solo signals her as something of an outsider. Her soliloquy is interrupted by the arrival of the other dancers who support and welcome her back to the fold. Esteban Berlanga adds brilliance to the mix then joins Jan Casier in a sensitive duet ending as they put, relaxed, back-to-back. As the work reached its final stages, Elena Vostrotina – dressed in a simple beige shift – brought emotional depth to balance the aesthetic beauty of her exquisite arabesque and arching back. Her duet with Casier was a highlight, full of delight and ecstasy.

Existentia is an inspiring work that takes on tradition and wraps it in sleek modernity.


By Maggie Foyer of Dancing Times.