Review: NAVY BLUE at Ottawa's National Arts Centre

Navy Blue is Oona Doherty’s exposé on the disintegration of humanity, while offering a glimmer of hope for the future.

By: May. 26, 2024
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As the curtain opens, the dancers on stage are aligned, their movements synchronized, but simultaneously jarring. They wear identical navy blue uniforms, as if forcibly assimilated. As they move across a rectangular white area delineated on the stage floor, we realize that they are confined to that area, trapped. Equally, we are trapped upon this earth, the only home we know – the “pale blue dot.” An insignificant dot in the universe. The dancers, like us, are insignificant dots – at first pale pink and pure, like the planet we live on. Eventually, evil and corruption emerges, seeking to “become the momentary masters of a fraction of a f*cking dot”. The dancers swirl and gather; huddled, hiding in fear from an unseen predator. But there is no escape - from oppression, from violence, from hatred. Rise up! Resist! As the dancers break from the group to sow seeds of rebellion, they are shot down, picked off one by one. They bleed blue; their life force dissipates, then disappears, as the glowing blue blood seeps out from beneath them, forming widening pools. Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is heard in the background. The tune is fittingly reminiscent of Eric Carmen’s All By Myself, as Carmen deliberately incorporated Rachmaninov’s melody from the second movement into his pop song. On stage, one survivor dances alone – frantically, defiantly – until, at last, they too fall. Defeated.

Review: NAVY BLUE at Ottawa's National Arts Centre
Oona Doherty's Navy Blue. Photo by Dajana Lothert.

As the dancers’ bodies lie strewn across the stage, their blood flows and combines, forming a single body of water. The bodies resemble land masses on the pale blue dot, a reminder that the world as we know it was formed through war and oppression. However, every land mass on earth is connected by water, the symbol of life.

In the second half of Navy Blue, Doherty’s voice emerges from the void and speaks to the audience through the dancers, accompanied by the thumping, rhythmic electronic music of Jamie xx. We are now in space, witnessing the horrors being perpetrated on Earth. Doherty recites the years in which specific atrocities were committed, together with a long list of people who have committed or caused violence and oppression. Doherty fears that life is meaningless. The blue dots - good people who build, support, and sustain society – are destined to be forgotten. Only evil is remembered.

Then, there is the realization that, when we die, we are transported back to the cosmos. The cycle continues. The dancers fall back, one by one, off the rectangle, into the infinite black space beyond. “Birth germ death birth germ death.” In order for our planet to survive; if the cycle is to be broken, we must love one another. We are stronger together; we can – must – work together to create a better world, even when it appears hopeless. The seemingly insignificant things that we do to make the world a better place do matter. We may be insignificant, but we still matter.

Navy Blue is a profound piece of art that exposes the hopelessness and dread of our existence, challenging the audience to first acknowledge this feeling, and then leave the theatre to do something that matters, even if it seems small.

Click the link below to see what NAC Dance has in store for Ottawa audiences for its recently announced 2024-2025 season.


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