Dublin Dance Festival 2017: Elvedon
Linger a Moment Longer
The opening minutes to “Elvedon,” by Greek choreographer Christos Papadopolous, performed by members of his company, Leon and The Wolf, are less than auspicious. Following a sequence that seems to aspire to being the world’s most prolonged, and underwhelming, display of twerking, six dancers gradually stand upright, eventually facing the audience. Initial impressions suggest that if Robert Palmer’s expressionless backing band on Addicted to Love, had traded in their black dresses and lipstick for dance wear and started a dance troupe, this would be the result. Small, rhythmic patterns of movement repeated endlessly, fixed facial expressions, nothing much appears to be happening. Just as you’re thinking you can’t linger another moment, linger a moment longer. For the devil soon reveals itself in the detail.
Looking, for all intents and purposes, like the dance equivalent of non-dramatic theatre, “Elvedon” defines itself as much by what it is not as by what it aspires to be. Minimalist in movement, dealing in minute physical articulations, “Elvedon’s” minimalism requires rigour, focus, patience, and synchronicity of the highest order. The result is a mesmerising, hypnotic and captivating simplicity that’s simply irresistible. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves, “Elvedon” deals with the passing of time for six, distinct friends as they move from childhood through to old age. Yet, as is often the case with minimalism, the open spaces it creates leaves room for a myriad of interpretations, often suggesting something larger than the tale it aspires to tell. There’s impressions here of unconscious uniformity, of expressionless people as drone like machines moving with military regimented precision, of a hive mind’s collective unconscious, of tribalism, ritual, and of the tension between the communal and the individual, to name but a few.
Papadopolous’s choreography may take some time to fully reveal its power, but, ultimately, it’s well worth waiting for, even if some sequences lose their sheen a little by overstaying their welcome. Initially employing small, simple sequences of synchronised shakes concentrated in the hips, feet and arms, alongside short imperceptible steps, movement seems to unconsciously emerge as dancers respond to a heavily metronome driven soundtrack by Coti.K. Patterns soon follow as solos, duets and groupings appear. Dancers Maria Bregianni, Epaminondas Damopoulos, Konstantina Gogoulou, Chara Kotsali, Charalampos Kousios and Ioanna Paraskevopoulou might all look like they’re doing the same thing, but the constant rhythmic repetition and shifts in groupings soon reveals subtle differences, and the individual uniqueness of each dancer as a result. When smiles momentarily appear, it’s like sunlight breaking through clouds and you can’t help but feel it. But time hurries as it passes, and what initially looks like Feldenkrais on speed soon becomes a racing, running movement for as long the dancer can last. As dancers fade into the dark, you marvel at how so much warmth, joy and charm can be generated with so little happening and so much repetition.
In the end, “Elvedon” is a seduction, and a long, slow one at that. At times, it feels like gazing at a hypnotist’s watch as it lures you deeper with its rhythmic swaying. The best thing to do is not to fight it. Just surrender and be carried away.
“Elvedon,” by Christos Papadopolous/Leon and The Wolf, runs at The Samuel Beckett Theatre as part of the Dublin Dance Festival 2017 until May 20th