Michaelangelo Drawing Blood is a 75-minute dance piece with an arresting score by Charlie Barber. Michaelangelo (Aaron Jeffrey) wrestles – literally at times – with his creation, the naked male form which he both tries to understand (like Leonardo he scandalised his times with his interest in anatomy) and to shape to his vision. The movement is alternately angst-ridden and ecstatic.
It’s almost too rich for its own good, because there are times when you want the movement to stop so you can concentrate on the intricate score. Barber has created a unique and haunting sound-world using a theorbo, cello, recorder and a variety of percussion – the dulcimer is particularly effective. Over these James Hall’s singing of the Latin Mass and Michaelangelo’s own words rings with bell-like clarity. Definitely a counter-tenor to look out for. If the music doesn’t quite get the passionate angst of the artist, it captures his intense reveries and his lyrical aspirations in music which is both expansive and hypnotic.
Andy Howitt knows the secret of good choreography, which is to work to both the strengths and weaknesses of his performers. Aaron Jeffrey is a versatile dancer who has worked with Howitt before, and his twists and turns are both elegant and expressive. Model Stefano Giglioni has a sculpted body-builder’s physique to die for, but like many heavily-muscled guys he is somewhat stiff. However, Howitt turns this to advantage in that Michaelangelo is after all working in stone; the contrast of the fluidity of the one trying to wrest expression from the stiffness of the other is extremely effective. And very erotic too, which is as it should be, given Michaelangelo’s sexuality. Only the anatomy scene doesn’t work – lengths of red and white cloth tape for the blood and guts look just plain silly.
Using a minimum of physical and musical means, Barber and Howitt have conjured a completely absorbing sound world, and a trip into the mind of a unique if troubled creative genius. It’s short, but it packs in more than many much longer pieces.