'How can I know who I am …feeling with pure energy, / With my heart, my mind, my body, my soul, / This is who and what I am. / I feel. I see. I am an animal.' These words form part of Vendetta Mathea’s vocal opening to her composition
A fine example of contemporary dance and a beauty to behold.
Homme | Animal confronts a duality. We are humans and have complex emotional states which lift us above the animal world, but the element of animal is still within us. Motifs derived from the movements of animals, in particular birds, are transformed into overtly human movements, executed through a range of contemporary dance forms.
Early influences in Vendetta Mathea’s life are evident throughout Homme | Animal. The sense of line and shape associated with Merce Cunningham is clearly evident, as is the fine balancing and transference of weight from one part of the body to another in many of the sequences. At the same time her dancers exemplify the belief of José Limón, that “a gesture, be it a leap, turn, run, fall, or walk, is only as beautiful, as powerful, as eloquent as its inner source”. It is in bringing these two together along with other influences from her distinguished career that she creates her distinctive style. The choice of minimal costumes for Homme | Animal ensures we see in the dancers’ bodies the intense physicality demanded by so much of the choreography.
Homme | Animal is performed by a trio of dancers who have worked with Vendetta Mathea since their teens and have all contributed to the piece. As a practitioner of Iyengar yoga and wing shun Surya Berthomieux has surely influenced the extent to which so many moves are firm yet flexible, rooted yet subject to external forces. Link Berthomieuz’s personal movements, particularly evidenced in his solos, clearly come from his research into energy, inertia and the ground, while the bird and animal sounds heard which initiate moves and cue certain parts of the body have an affinity with whatNicolas Garsault must have learned working with Ohad Naharin.
For dance, Homme | Animal is a long, unrelenting opus which might well have greater impact if it were condensed. While it is a delight to hear and see Vendetta Mathea the piece would stand without her prologue and epilogue. The format provides shape and context for the piece but her choreography is sufficiently vivid and self-explanatory as to make it redundant. That aside, it is a fine example of contemporary dance and a beauty to behold.