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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2021: dyad/The Love Behind My Eyes/Silver Veiled

dyad by Justine Doswell. image by LucaTruffarelli

Three smaller servings sees Dublin Dance Festival 2021 go from strength to strength. Even if all don't work as well as they might, each offers something unique. With one being simply breathtaking.

With dyad (****) choreographer, Justine Doswell, finds in St Patrick's Cathedral a site in which to mediate on women's bodies serving as a connection between the human and divine. Mary/Maryam, as she is received, and perceived, in both Christianity and Islam becomes a point of meeting and division. If interconnectedness, twinned concepts and shared ideals provided the original impetus and thrust, dyad is defined as much by distance and suspicion. While Katie Davenport's use of dark dungarees and orange jumpers neatly twins dancers Justine Cooper and Salma Ataya, it's Davenport's costuming where connection most obviously lies for the longest period. Less a duet, until its final moments, so much as alternating solos with momentary overlap, shared phrases - pulling and dragging, or bird like movements - attempt to craft a shared language which the body mediates. One that avoids the obvious and commonplace in an effort to find its own voice. Ensuring dyad asks you to look and listen attentively, but rewards you richly for doing so.

dyad by Justine Doswell. image by LucaTruffarelli

If face masks remind us why were watching it onscreen instead of live as originally intended, they also gift two of the most expressive sets of eyes in Cooper and Ataya. Which filmmaker, Luca Truffarelli, rightly exploits to their fullest. But it's not all smooth sailing. For a short work, dyad takes its time finding its feet. Early minutes belong to Truffarelli as the camera exerts its presence. If the camera often misses as much as it sees, or risks losing intensity for trying to see it all at once, some brave decisions by Truffarelli offer up a variety of angles, not necessarily the best or with clear sight lines, replicating something of a live experience. Andrew Clancy's pagoda styled structure might provide a focal point for Cooper and Ataya to engage with and respond to, yet while it goes a long way to informing the work, it arguably risks limiting it possibilities. Becoming an over used site in an already magnificent, under used site that's reduced to a backdrop. Around which a prolonged walking sequence, marked by distance and suspicion, finds itself looking like it never fully evolved from being a warm up or exploratory exercise.

Yet dyad is bigger than its individual parts, being a work defined by collaboration. Including Paul Keogan's thoughtful lights and Mary Barnecutt's superb score, its cello driven sequence evoking David Darling at his best during his ECM years. If dancers appear separate for the most part, it sets up the ending beautifully, making dyad less a meditation on connectedness so much as a journey to it. A recitation of the Holy Qur'an Surah Maryam (19:16-30) by Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, filmed in the Lady Chapel of Saint Patrick's Cathedral with the  kind permission of the Dean, the Very Reverend Dr William Morton, reinforces the ecumenical ambitions, thematically and collaboratively, underscoring dyad. A work which achieves moments of daunting beauty, most notably during Cooper's superb solo. If dyad is uneven at times, a profound richness and complexity underlies its apparent simplicity. One that opens up to moments that can catch your breath.

The Love Behind My Eyes by Ali Chahrour. Image by Pôle Seif

As does the extraordinarily brilliant short film, The Love Behind My Eyes (*****). Part of a tryptic entitled Love, and commissioned by Dublin Dance Festival, The Love Behind My Eyes is inspired by the tale of Mohamed Bin Daoud, whose love for Mohamed Bin Jamea could not be condoned within their religious community. If choreographer Ali Chahrour's dance performance was the jumping off point, what evolved is unquestionable director Salim Morad's film. One informing dance as much as being informed by it, with both being enriched in the process. Powerful, unsettling, this simply told tale opens with a women providing context, her face a legend of unspoken pains. A boat journey to a small beach, self consciously meta with regard to filming, opens into moments of overwhelming beauty. Images heavy with power and rich in suggestion are charged with eroticism, fuelled by pain, longing, death and togetherness. If dancers Chahrour and Chadi Aoun each give mesmerising performances, both risk being upstaged by Leila Charhour, whose singing and presence risks eclipsing everything else on screen. In The Love Behind My Eyes there is much more than love to be found, in this quiet work of astonishing power and beauty.

Silver Veiled by Genevra Panzetti and_Enrico Ticconi. Video Still: Ettore Spezza

If The Love Behind My Eyes pushes at the boundaries of dance on film, another DDF commission, Silver Veiled (***) risks dance purist scratching their heads. Is folk flag waving dance? Is it dance in the same way ice skating is dance? If its dance credentials might leave some wondering, it suffers no identity crisis as a film for being beautifully shot. Devised and performed by Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi, a mediation on the symbolic power of flags, which morph into shrouds, plays for the longest time like a one trick pony. Like the smallest nation taking part in the opening ceremony of the Underworld Olympics, Panzetti and Ticconi swirl black flags in black costumes as they undertake a slow, laborious journey through a corridor of arches. Reverting to the same rising, waving, lying down pattern that overplays its hand, at twenty minutes the work seems durational, feeling ten minutes too long. Yet, midway, it spreads its wings and becomes visually and performatively intriguing, beginning with a superb, energised duet in which bodies appear and disappear, swapping roles as the flag winds about them; Sergio Salomone's hitherto lacklustre sound design cleverly suggesting fireworks, or gunfire, flags snapping in the wind or marching feet. If it all comes full circle with some modest twists, the feeling remains there's much more to be had here. And a feeling of wanting to see it. For when Silver Veiled pushes at its own possibilities, seen in its final image, it crafts a variety of beautiful moments which hold others to account.

dyad, by Justine Doswell, The Love Behind My Eyes by Ali Chahrour, and Silver Veiled by Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi, are available online as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2021.

For tickets or more information, visit Dublin Dance Festival 2021

Dublin Dance Festival 2021 runs May 18 to May 30.


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