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Review: Morphoses’ ‘Within’ is weak lead-in

Friday, June 29, 2012
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— Rent the DVD and skip the dance. That would be the best advice to audiences considering the world premiere of Morphoses’ “Within (Labyrinth Within).”

The dance/movie, now showing at Jacob’s Pillow, is too underdeveloped to be worth a trip to the Berkshires. And it’s definitely not worth the price of admission as it’s more movie than dance.

Conceived and choreographed by Pontus Lidberg, with an original score by composer David Lang, “Within (Labyrinth Within)” is divided into two parts — a dance and then the showing of Lidberg’s movie “Labyrinth Within.” The dance essentially serves as a prelude to the movie. And while the film is fascinating, the dancing leading up to it hardly launches the imagination. Neither does it physically soar.

Morphoses’ ‘Within (Labyrinth Within)’

WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.

WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $64, $59, and $39

MORE INFO: (413) 243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org

As performed by dancers Frances Chiaverini, Adrian Danchig-Waring (of the New York City Ballet), Gabrielle Lamb, Jens Weber and Lidberg, the choreography is limited. It begins with Lidberg lying on the floor, his back to the audience. As the lights come up, they reveal red poppies. Lidberg reaches and picks the poppies, replacing them at various points around the stage.

His movement is organic and seamless. He holds himself near the floor, on fingers and toes, and then swings a leg under his torso, twisting his frame in a way that forces him to flip. He repeats this with his arm projecting under his leg. When he finally stands, he pitches himself again to the floor, only to replay his wrenching ways.

The cool mystery is heightened by a shifting backdrop, a video projection of Lidberg in a forest, on a beach and in a large, empty room. The two Lidbergs, real and projected, move in tandem. But there still is a sense of anticipating the show to begin.

This sunken churning goes on and on in the duets that follow — Lamb with Weber and Chiaverini with Danchig-Waring among them. While the duets extend Lidberg’s style to more tumbling across bent backs and some interesting balances — a hip resting on a partner’s raised feet, for example — the dancing’s temperament remains monotonously sober. These duets, happily, do benefit from more video, reflecting their stirrings.

For New York City Ballet fans, however, it is rewarding to see soloist Danchig-Waring, performing as we rarely see him — down and gritty. He adds the few sparks of passion to the dance.

The dancers then push the screen/scrim forward and Lidberg’s film “Labyrinth Within” is shown, with the marvelous Wendy Whelan (also of the New York City Ballet) as the heroine. The film, about a man and wife in an indifferent relationship, is engrossing. Lidberg appears as Whelan’s imagined lover while Giovanni Bucchieri is her husband. It appears that Lidberg’s success with the film, made in 2010, inspired him to expand it with a dance — their loveless marriage and red poppies mirrored in a colorless dance.

That was a bad idea. “Labyrinth Within” stands alone and is only hampered by the dour dancing that barely echoes its power.

Again, rent the DVD, skip the dance.

 
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