BWW Reviews: THE ORACLE Stunned the Adelaide Audience

Reviewed Wednesday 20th August 2014

Sergei Diaghilev had Igor Stravinsky compose the music for a radically new ballet, to be performed by his Ballets Russes, and to be choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. That ballet was Le Sacre du Printemps, translated into English as The Rite of Spring. It was booed from those very first notes from the bassoon, and the beginning of the sharp and angular dancing with its apparent wild abandon. Both the avant-garde music and choreography were radically different from all that had been before. Rioting followed the performance. A century later it is the music being used for a contemporary dance piece, Meryl Tankard's amazing work, The Oracle, with the astounding solo performance by Paul White, who collaborated with her on the choreography. Premiered in 2009, it has finally come to Adelaide.

Régis Lansac has created a video projection that acts as a preface to the live performance, and then interacts with the dancer throughout. This involved filming Paul White for the video and blending this work with other images and then it is projected onto a large screen behind the dancer.

Interestingly, the music came about by chance from looking at this video of White's experimenting with the choreography, and the casual remark by Lansac that one particularly strong part of White's work would fit well against a section of that piece of music. Adding the music found that it did indeed work well, so much so that it was decided to use the entire work as the music in this performance. A century on, Stravinsky's music has been taken out of the concert halls, and away from the exclusive use of the ballet companies, and been given another life in contemporary dance. No doubt Stravinsky, Diaghelev, and Nijinsky would be thrilled if they knew about this, and probably jealous that they are not still around to have been involved.

Initially we are treated to an introduction showing Lansac's video creativity, with photographs of White transformed into an array of kaleidoscopic images that transform from recognisable portraits to abstract images. The dark portraits of Odd Nerdrum were part of the inspiration behind this piece, and this can be seen in the photographs. The soundtrack to this section begins with bird sounds, interspersed with canon fire, a church bell sounds and a pipe organ begins to play. So it continued, the ever changing sounds and visuals building the tension and anticipation.

Paul White appears in ill-fitting underpants and a large sheet of material, these pieces used as at various times as either a cloak or a skirt, initially worn over his head, hiding his face. What stands out his visibly obvious physical strength, and he uses it to great effect throughout this performance. Stravinsky's music begins and White embarks on an amazing performance that demonstrates his great flexibility and control as he becomes part of the music and part of the lighting by Damien Cooper, Matt Cox and Ben Hughes. This integration, which also includes the set and continuing visuals from Lansac, is such a major contribution to the power of this work.

As White discovers dualities, power and weakness, strength and fear, male and female, and much more, he expresses a far reaching range of emotions with every nuance of his movements. What he finds within himself and brings out in his performance is almost overwhelming, and totally captivating. He interacts with himself on the video, initially mirroring and then moving to a pas de deux until the image splits into two, one black and one white adding yet more complexity. By the end the audience is completely entranced, so much so that there was an extended, stunned silence before anybody could bring themselves to break the mood and applaud, and applaud they did, adding a standing ovation.. This incredible work is only here for a few days so hurry to see it while you can.

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From This Author Barry Lenny

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