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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2022: Encantado

Encantado, choreography by Lia Rodrigues. Image by Sammi Landweer


God, but Encantado takes forever to start. As a wide carpet is slowly unfurled, rolled from upstage to eventually cover the entire stage, there's a deliberate absence of urgency. Or ceremony. Or ritual. Just a pained suspicion that the tech crew forget to roll out the patchwork carpet and are now trying to do so as quietly and as inconspicuously as possible. Yet as lights rise it becomes apparent that this is not a carpet. Rather it's an impressively interlinked tapestry of individually separate sheets, like a giant un-sewn coloured quilt being rolled out with considered care. A glaring indication that things are never quite as they seem in Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues' Encantado, presented by The Abbey Theatre and Dublin Dance Festival. Even so, at the very least they could've started at the half way mark.

Presently the stage empties. Just as you're stifling that first yawn, the first naked body appears. Nine more follow. Male and female. Each slips beneath a sheet, wraps it about themselves, draping them as cowls, dresses, shrouds, and other visually impressive nonsense, like a Robin Williams improvisational routine. At some point a sole dancer moves to the front and emits an animal howl, received like a Zen master's slap to the face. More follow, accompanied by facial expressions evoking a joyous haka. Dancers begin to move as a percussive tribal rhythm takes hypnotic hold, built from excerpts of songs of the Guarani people. In what follows mermaids, giants nine foot tall, and other weird and wonderful creatures carve out archetypal shapes, sounds and images that resonate across cultural barriers. Joy soon ensues, and ensues, and ensues, till Encantado overplays its hand and ultimately overstays its joyous welcome.

Encantado, choreography by Lia Rodrigues. Image by Sammi Landweer

With moments that evoke the late, great Irish performance artist Eleanor Lawler, the versatility of textiles and a reclamation of the body see Encantado reimagining fabric and bravely shaming those who would shame the physical. Throughout, an Eden like innocence suffuses every moment. Choreography by Rodrigues might seem loose and aimless, but individual movement signatures are returned to repeatedly, as well as short ensemble pieces that juxtapose and feed off each other. Three women talking about money, three rear ends flashing briefly, a campish catwalk, strike-a-pose routine all helping to root the experience. If the clean organisation of the opening explodes in a chaos of disorder, under Rodrigues' command the effect is ordered chaos. Revealed in the way the ensemble moves, expands, and contracts as a unit, playfully utilising sheets to traverse the stage. Nothing random here. There's improvisation, but always on Rodrigues' well established structures.

Despite listing eleven performers, (Leonardo Nunes, Carolina Repetto, Valentina Fittipaldi, Andrey da Silva, Larissa Lima, Ricardo Xavier, Dandara Patroclo, David Abreu, Felipe Vian, Tiago Oliveira, Raquel Alexandre) only ten appeared in Friday's performance. If it's not clear who the missing dancer was, what can be said with absolute confidence is that dancer Dandara Patroclo is an absolute revelation. Her fierce haka and energised movements informed by a detailed facial lexicon, built from a choreography all its own, creating a standout performance.

Dandara Patroclo (front) in Encantado, choreography by Lia Rodrigues. Image by Sammi Landweer

Encantado is proof, were proof needed, that you do not need to understand dance to enjoy it. And that dance can often be other than what you think dance is. Encantado purports to be about reconnecting us with the beauty and power of the natural world. Grand. I can see that. But it offers so much more. Yet all its ideas look moot compared to its cacophony of colour and its erotic, exuberant, exhilarating joyousness. To the parading, peacocking, and posturing of wild infectious energies. But go ahead. Wallflower in the corner arguing what Encantado is about. But know, as you do, that Encantado is infinitely richer than what it, or you, claim it to be. Mostly, Encantado is a party. Inviting everyone to get naked and come play with the blankets. Uplifting, breaking moulds, challenging expectations, and sheer good fun. Which is also an apt description for Dublin Dance Festival 2022.

Encantado, choreography by Lia Rodrigues, presented by Dublin Dance Festival and the Abbey Theatre, runs at The Abbey Theatre until May 21.

For more information, visit Dublin Dance Festival 2022 or The Abbey Theatre.


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