Digital Dervish + Flamenco Sonic at Market Hall, Peterborough, Canada
review by Sarazee Sept 12th, 2022
In our world of dying ecosystems and filter-less information, Firoza’s production left me with a shot of optimism for humanity’s ability to heal.
The dark stage was set with a young dervish resting in an illuminated circle on the ground plane. There was an identical projected circle off the back wall. The music, combined with the moving images of skies, trees and water on these circles soon made me forget about the physicality of the stage set.
Upon waking from a dream Dervish spins; the flowing images onto his immaculate skirt with his movement bring to mind both the fluidity of a stingray and a butterfly’s celestial defiance of gravity. Both Dervish and audience are lulled into a meditative state, and we lose track of time. Some glowing devices on his wrist and ankle respond to the movements of Dervish with an instrumental strum. Dervish’s reaction to these sounds resembles a baby discovering its own limbs for the first time. Dervish becomes self-aware. Audience and dervish emerge out of the calming realm. This self-awareness is reinforced by the music and imagery, beautifully synchronised with Dervish’s movements. Images eventually morph to dehumanizing built environments and the destruction of the balance of nature. This spirals along with the collapse of Dervish. In the theatre the dizzying imagery was reinforced in the reflections of the surrounding glass guard rails of the balconies, conveying peripheral vertigo to the audience.
A split second (or an eternity) later, a flamenco dancer wanders in to discover the fallen motionless dervish. She has an earthy sensual air about her, reflected in her body hugging very human floral dress. She exudes confidence. She also dons a luminous shawl which feels more ephemeral. Her extremely controlled and yet fluid movements help us find ground. The music and now more abstract imagery feel like a dream in which human-made chaos is being beaten and sorted into a manageable order. The images are literally shaken into place with every tap of her shoe. Dancer uses her glowing sound sensors as instruments conveying the castanets and has as much control over them as each of her muscles. She is untangling the chaos.
Any unravelling that happened with Dervish feels like it is being stitched back together by Dancer. The use of the shawl in the dance echoes Dervish’s conjuring of the motions of the stingray and the butterfly. Stingrays symbolize adaptability, balance, restraint among other things, and butterflies are associated with transformation and hope. Next the healing wings of an angel thrash out from the same shawl. They poke, prod, and embrace Dervish.
Dervish is awakened. Dancer and Dervish, for a lovely fleeting moment, share some common spins, bow with a gentle respect for each other and then part ways.
The production wove together four powerful elements. Each thread could have been a stand-alone performance but in this production added layers and complexity in meaning that will be left for the audience to unwrap over time. The stunning musical score was the narrative and backbone of the show. The lyrical animated film, colours and moving imagery drew the audience in and acted like a chorus, evoking emotional reactions in us. The highly skilled expressive seasoned Dancer and the brave beautiful Dervish who spun us into his world were perfect counterpoints to one another. The sound-drop instruments were an intriguing sonic layer to the performers’ movements. I would love to see a show in which they are further explored- we merely got a taste of what they might be about. Perhaps a dedicated exchange would have been powerful, with no projections or music – just the performers and the sound-drop devices with more subtle light levels, as they emerge out of Dervish’s darkness.
I left the performance with the feeling I had just experienced the Japanese concept of ‘ma’. It is the state of the pendulum neither coming nor going; or it could be described as the space between musical notes – it is in this interval we are given a chance to heal or grow – a fresh start. This show gave us a glimpse into those elusive zones between audience and performer, young and old, natural and built, water and sky, mind and body, earthly and celestial, night and day, zeros and ones, and the dare I say centre of the circle. Digital Dervish and Flamenco Sonic gave us the dream of a ‘reset button’, which surely is something our world could use right now.
Sarazee is an Architect based in Vancouver, B.C.
Review of September 9th and 10th performances in Peterborough, Canada