A bell tolls. Feint strings begin to shimmer. A sombre procession of sixteen women dressed in black and carrying black chairs fills the space from both sides. They are silent and sharply focused as they carefully place each chair into position. Now begins their exploration of “this place”:
The music alone is worth going to hear, powerfully interpreted in this deeply expressive work
Matthew Farmer’s latest work is fresh from nearby the shores of Lake Michigan where he is co-Artistic Director in the Hope College Dance Department to which H2 Dance Co., a pre-professional dance company, is affiliated. His contemporary dance composition originates in multiple questions. Essentially he asks, ‘What is it like to be fully aware of a place and how both you and it are affected by those around you?’ People exist in many contexts and others have multiple expectations of them. The role demands of being a parent, a partner, a worker and a fully contributing member of society are all different and colour how we fit into given places. In the midst of that how is the individual’s true self discovered and personal identity retained?
Dieser Ort is accompanied and driven by evocative selections from the great symphonic composers Part, Vasks, Hovhaness, Chopin, Schumann, and Beethoven. The music alone is worth going to hear and its intensity is amplified and powerfully interpreted in this deeply expressive work. There are many stimuli that have created Dieser Ort and both the choreographer and the dancers have their understandings of what this work is about, but they are not prescriptive. Anyone can become immersed in the work and see a wealth of symbolism that is open to personal interpretation; to create a storyline that is free to roam where it wills perhaps only to be shattered or perhaps to be built up.
The piece is clearly physically and emotionally demanding. Once on stage the action is unrelenting for just under an hour with all dancers performing throughout. On Matthew Farmer’s own admission it is perhaps just a few minutes too long, but that is a minor point.
The duration gives all the performers a chance to display a wealth of talent. Some are more graceful and skilled than others, but they are still training, so that is to be expected. In successfully carrying off the monumental challenge of this work their individual and collective accomplishment is undeniably considerable.
H2 Dance Co. provides an evening of delightful entertainment that is mentally stimulating and visually rewarding. It’ll leave you with your own imaginings but, given the choice of music for the finale, Dieser Ort bows out as a triumphant ode to the joy of just being alive.