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Ballet Preljocaj - Near Life Experience

Ballet Preljocaj

'Near Life Experience'

by Katherine Phillips

May 20, 2004 -- Sadler's Wells, London

Angelin Preljocaj has been traveling. Having experienced spiritual tranquility in India and eye opening life lessons in Tanzania, his new piece, “Near Life Experience”, is peaceful and elusive – completely polar to the raucous strength of controversy and colour that we have become accustomed to in his work.

The dancing is superb as always – strong, elegant and luminescent movements sculpt the space of an open stage. Slow, soft, tender touches and support are followed by bullets of precision and back arching, muscle wrenching springs.

There are claustrophobic patterns and a stark sense of isolation in the groupings. An atmosphere of non-violent threat permeates the action, but with no antagonistic force: The crowds of dancers around one soloist represent a joint force trying to extract a solitary experience. The relationships between the dancers are taut but not stressed.

It is a choreography of nearlies: a scream that never comes out, a lick that never tastes, a hug that never touches. There are moments we all recognise but cannot place and a sense of deja vu. It is how we imagine being in a coma or the moment in between sleep and dreams. The music, featuring the chilled grooves and funky beats of French pop band AIR, is full of such intimate, semi-reflective sounds – like a voice heard from far away, or the soft, soothing and melodic tones of a guitar in the distance.

Red balls of wool, gigantic and tiny, roll and unwind to become ties that bind, turning the dancers into puppets; then held in the mouth to represent sexual desire; then walked on as a tightrope and attached to the dancers like umbilical cords. This amniotic theme is further represented by carried dancers somersaulting and leaping between fragile looking glass bubbles, moving in slow motion as if under water.

"Near Life Experience" may not be overwhelmingly touching or colourful, but for a pure dance performance, this is as good as it gets. Choreographically for Angelin Preljocaj, this is a new journey: A naked body, writhing in white residue ends the piece – perhaps symbolising his re-birth as a pacifist choreographer.

Edited by Holly Messitt

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