The Chosen

How do we face dying if we know we have a terminal illness? And also how do we live in the face of death, imminent or not? Losing several friends in the same year, Kally Lloyd-Jones, Artistic Director and choreographer of Company Chordelia faces these questions in The Chosen. Normally associated with narrative dance inspired by historical figures or dramatic texts she has thrown off the shackles, so to speak and choreographed her most abstract dance to date and with great success, allowing more empathy from the audience as we bring our own stories to the experience.

Lloyd-Jones is at last trusting to the language of dance without narrative props.

Six dancers (three females, and three males) in every day clothes sit on mirrored boxes to the sound of thudding heart beats emphasising our common fate. This is followed by the sound of breaking waves. The dancers eventually run forward to the front of the stage then back, arms flailing imitating the surf swooshing on a shore in a ragged line then the swash retreating. This goes on for a long, long time, testing the audience’s tolerance, then if one relaxes into it, the sounds and movements draw one into a trance-like state. This whole sequence suggests beautifully the passing of time, our cyclical lives.

One of the dancers, a male in black T-shirt, does not run with the others, but noticeably, walks slowly forward, his face with a worried, distracted expression. He is the one who knows he faces imminent death. Later he often falls, and the others occasionally comfort him but most of the time they are preoccupied, moving the boxes and sitting on them, only to move them again later. At times the dancers sit scratching their heads, drumming their heels, restlessly twitching, worried with trivial issues, we presume, not fully living their lives with joy. This section (repeated several times) fails to convince, being far too literal and clunky in comparison to more subtle sections of the choreography.

Another dancer, a female tries to perform an arabesque and falls, intimations of death, whilst life goes on as two males in love embrace. Each dancer undergoes similar expriences, rising and falling, rising again. At one point, bright lights come on and everybody, sitting on a box, looks up to soaring music, only for them to slip off and fall to the floor. Towards the end the ensemble stand together and open their mouths in silent grief.

Uplifting music from an array of composers adds an ecstatic feel, especially the operatic excerpts to the piece, amongst these by Richard Strauss, François Dompierre, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky and finally an excerpt from Mozart’s Requiem.

This piece narrowly failed to get a five star, because of the clunky bits and the fact that the repetitions were not all justified and made the piece too long. It is also a shame that Lloyd-Jones entitles the piece The Chosen after The Rite of Spring since to be pedantically picky, there is no sacrificial victim in this piece, though she has explained that she was extrapolating the idea of what it must be like to know you are dying. It is nevertheless a beautiful and moving piece in which Lloyd-Jones is at last trusting to the language of dance without narrative.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

The Chosen is about dying and so is also about living and time: how we choose to live in the face of dying and how we think about dying. Increasingly, as medicine advances, knowledge of imminent death has become a reality for everyone. From the shifting perspectives of both the Chosen and those close to them, this piece is a personal reflection on experiencing the time left to us. A reference to The Rite of Spring – the “chosen” is to be sacrificed, but also special or honoured. Created by award-winning artistic director Kally Lloyd-Jones.

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