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Letter: Not to miss

Dear Editor:

A lone figure lying prone on the stage, a field of poppies, stark lighting and a blank screen. These images greet the observer as Pontus Lidberg’s “Within (Labyrinth Within)” begins to unfold. The mercurial poppies send my mind probing; real poppies whither almost immediately after being plucked. They must be admired from afar — and are a highly loaded flower, too.

Is this a dream? A drug-induced hallucination? Or a fleeting glimpse of unobtainable desires and longing? Within moments, I am drawn into the exploration of relationships, the exquisite dancing, the flashes of upclose, sometimes too-close, images on the screen. Coupled with David Lang’s haunting score, Pontus’ creation has me riveted to my seat; voyeur, accomplice and intimate companion on his journey.

It is rare that live dance and film are partnered so effectively: a pair of tangled torsos, the arc of a foot, a gaze, a look of disdain, longing or jealous suffering. With live dance, there is no guarantee of where the audience’s eye will fall, what movement will be captured and what message will be missed. But with film, the choreographer has control, can direct the gaze and sometimes can force the viewer to see what he wants them to see.

With his alternating viewpoints and his high, low, extremely close and long hallway shots, Pontus creates a fantasy nightmare where the viewer wonders what is real and what is imagined. Where do reality end and the machinations of our mind begin? All of us are capable of such loneliness, such desire, such jealousy that the story in our head becomes so real that we lose ourselves in it and become it.

No story about dance would be complete without speaking of the dancers themselves. No choreographer creates in a void, and Pontus attracted some of the world’s virtuoso dancers for this project. Wendy Whelan and Giovanni Bucchieri are larger than life in the film, but the dancers on stage push Pontus’ sometimes awkward choreography to the sublime. “It feels like cheating,” says the newest member of the group, Laura Mead, about dancing with her co-workers. Truly their history and resumes are impressive: New York City Ballet principal dancers, Berlin Ballet principal dancer, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens soloist and choreographers in their own right. They are all of an unbelievable caliber. Adrien Danchig-Waring’s mere presence on stage fills it, and his reach and his lines go on seemingly forever, making the room look too small.

Pontus choreography is often counter to virtuosic. He doesn’t want to wow you with amazing leaps or splits or lifts that defy gravity. He wants to draw you into his exploration of relationships. An uncomfortable hand placement in the live choreography becomes a cry for intimacy in the film. It sometimes feels disjointed, almost muddy; purposely or not is hard to say. But relationships are often disjointed and muddy, too, and his exploration of relationship dynamics is devastatingly accurate. His vision becomes clear when the films are rolling. His photographer’s eye gives us glimpses into the complexities of our own tunnel vision.

The multimedia dance/film piece was presented by the Aspen Fringe Festival and performed at the Aspen District Theater in Aspen on Thursday and Friday. This performance once again shows that the Aspen Fringe Festival is bringing us the highest quality and caliber of art. With a stimulating discussion post-show led Thursday night by Laura Thielen, artistic director of Aspen Film, Aspen Fringe is becoming a strong voice in inspiring the discussion about art in our valley. Other performances continue this weekend with the 2012 Obie Award-winning one-man play “An Iliad” today and Sunday and a sneak-preview reading of a new comedy by award-winning playwright John Kolvenbach, “Bank Job,” on Monday. Advance-purchase tickets and festival passes are on sale through http://www.aspenshowtix.com or by calling the box office at 970-920-5770. Tickets are available at the door, but remember, they’re fringy — credit cards are not accepted.

Melanie Doskocil

Basalt


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