Sunday, October 7, 2012

Botafogo Dance Ensemble: Master and Zuriel

Photo by Béla Kanyó

Do we have free will? Is our destiny carved into a script of movements? Are we controlled by good and evil or can we plan the choreography of our own fate? Does love liberate or constrain us? And if it seems that the path we have been shepherded towards was trimmed, swerved, turned inside out and upside down by the steadfast battle of heaven and hell, by the invigorating power of love, or by the pettiness and stirring of others, must we follow the cobbles to our damnation? Or can we tear down our chains to select our own background music, fellow dancers, costumes, and rules to the dance of our life?
These are just some of the questions Master and Zuriel arouses in the mind of the audience. I have to admit, at first I didn’t agree with the director, Tibor Dalotti, saying that the newest performance of Botafogo Dance Ensemble appeals to that part of the audience as well who seeks some intellectual depth beyond the visual delectation offered by show dance. Then I was reminded that I just did not look at what I saw from the right angle. I failed to look beyond the flamboyant costumes and the scintillating Latin dance movements. The piece is indeed intricate. It is a sort of metadance, in which the conveyor of meaning is not dance itself, but the plot; after all, Master and Zuriel is a dance drama.
From the title we can guess what the new piece of the 25-year-old dance ensemble is about; the name Zuriel means “the Lord my rock” or “Rock of God”, whereas Master can refer to either a teacher of a higher rank, or someone who has control over others. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Master fulfills both roles: he is the master of a dance group, and he also reminds one of a puppet master, when he controls the movement of other characters against their own will. So, we have an angel and a devil, good and evil, but their battle is not fought directly; instead, it is precipitated on a dancing canvas embodied by a third character, the Guy, who at times seems to be a malleable conduit of a higher volition, bounced back and forth between the two polar agents, and at other times acts on his own will, strengthened by the love of the Girl.
The story is easy to follow, supported by the distinctive dance costumes and the thespian prominence of the performers. Zoltán Horváth, with his hat casting a mysterious shadow on his face, his red and black, menacing appearance, and his movements and posture filled with commanding dignity; and Izabella Práth, with her ever-glowing face, her golden dress supplemented with flowing wings, and her angelic, motherly guidance permeating her graceful and sublime terpsichore, perfectly make the two polarities of the stage. The line of their battle comes across through the character of the Guy (Attila Felföldi), who is constantly developing, adapting to the situation, from a lad dancing hip-hop turning into a more precise, smoother man, finding his own path to the Girl (Nikolett Jankovics), the passionate and spicy Latin dancer, who wears the most conspicuous clothes among all.
Tibor Dalotti chose the music from Karl Jenkins and Pink Martini, the songs of both adding an intensifying, ethereal flavour to the performance. The choreography is in synch with the music, including examples of sensual rumba, jovial jive, vibrant hip-hop, but also dance sections taking turns, thereby creating a dialogue of dance styles, a congruity reached through versatility. Master and Zuriel is an effervescent amalgam of jazz, Latin, and break dance, enabling the corps de ballet to show their terpsichorean proficiency, without making the audience spend too much time with the interpretation of the grandiose, imposing movements. This does not mean, however, that the performance does not make you think. It is interesting, for instance, that whereas Zuriel can be seen only by the young Guy, the manifestation of evil, Master is a visible, perceptible character of the plot, which might suggest that evil is amongst us.
Photo by Béla Kanyó

In conclusion, the new all-evening dance show performance of Botafogo Dance Ensemble can satisfy a wide range of the audience, presenting an example of how dance is a way of communication without words, an outstanding performance of visual dance, and proposing the questions whether we are merely puppet soldiers of a higher realm, or we can strive for our goals even if it seems that we have lost everything.

P.S. I wrote this review in March 2012, for the same magazine I have previously mentioned, but it was not published either. Anyway, here you can read it. 

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