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  • Chris ORourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2017: merry.go.round

merry.go.round. Photo by Patricio Cassinoni


The Universe Provides

Beautifully described as a ‘world suffering from Post-Romantic Stress Disorder,’ the interdisciplinary landscape crafted by Swedish choreographer, Maria Nilsson Waller, in her thoughtful and thought provoking “merry.go.round” sees five celestial bodies circling the cosmos in search of connection. The third in Waller’s Terra Nullius triptych, based around unclaimed territories, “merry.go.round” sees bodies tumbling through space, each following a slow, circular gravitational path around a centre which doesn’t exist, yet one whose presence is felt more keenly by its absence. Referencing many of the great tragic love stories, whilst marrying them to minimalist set, subtle sound design and a jazz driven soundscape, with just a touch of opera and hints of half heard speech, “merry.go.round’s” choreographic statement might take a little while to find its feet, but once it does it has moments of mesmerising beauty.

Initially slow to start, with dancers, once on their feet, moving in wide, tight, or ever decreasing circles, “merry.go.round” establishes its sense of a swirling cosmos right from the outset. Despite a richly layered soundtrack by Swedish band Je Suis!, Waller’s cosmos feels a cold, impersonal space, where bodies move in patterned passes, glancing against each other at best with barely the strength of a breath. Yet a glance can be enough to spark that tentative connection, realised in an exquisitely tender and moving duet. Yet no sooner has love, or the possibility of it, entered the cosmos than the laws of the universe give way to chaos as bedlam ensues. Props run riot, as do performers, as humour, speech and mayhem ensue. Into the fray Wagner, Abelard and Heloise, amongst others, make an appearance, bringing with them an unsubtle specificity that really wasn’t needed in a section that lingered a little too long and looked a little too busy at times. When the wild, frenetic energy burns itself out, and darkness descends, the heart of “merry.go.round” returns as a sole dancer weaves her way through the darkened space. A weaving that becomes a pattern, a way of being, that searches for, and simultaneously limits, the possibility of connection. As light returns, other souls emerge, confined within their own repeating patterns, oblivious to all others. Yet in a moment a shift can take place, a gentle letting go of all that constrains, moving into a tender response to the pattern of another, supporting, sensing, anticipating. If enough respond, putting their own needs aside, the universe can indeed change, and all it takes is a passing glance shifting to a look.

Within Waller’s detailed choreography, which she states, ‘is partly scored as improvisation,’ dancers Elin Hedin, David Nondorf, Marcia Liu, Justine Copper and Mikel Aristegui craft a subtle, at times sublime, if occasionally slow moving, experience. The result is a production informed as much by the spaces between bodies as by the bodies themselves, where a deep-felt sense of aloneness and loneliness resides informing what's absent and longed for. In search of connection, love may prove to be the final frontier, and “merry.go.round” is prepared to boldly go there, with Waller ensuring her universe provides. Daring to hope in the darkness, laying claim to some heartfelt moments, “merry.go.round” is ultimately a delight, packaged in a strong ensemble performance.

“merry.go.round” by Maria Nilsson Waller and Company, runs at The Samuel Beckett Theatre as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2o17 until May 24th

For more information, visit Samuel Beckett Theatre or Dublin Dance Festival

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