In the blue of virtual reality with the shorts of the Scottish Ballet
IMAGINE, if you will, a creative collision between absurd playwright Eugène Ionesco, dance innovator Pina Bausch, auteur filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and the video (directed by Toni Basil and David Byrne) for the 1980 hit by Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime. Such is the collaboration evoked (in the mind of this critic, at least) by Dive, the short film released by Scottish Ballet on April 29, International Dance Day.
Created by Sophie Laplane and James Bonas, and directed by Oscar Sansom, the piece’s stated inspiration is the famous shade of blue created by French artist Yves Klein. Human and humanoid characters and, in one of the many hilarious moments that light up this 13-minute film, a domestic mammal, complement and clash in Klein’s striking white and blue.
The sound of Schubert’s magnificent Ständchen is accompanied by appropriate lyrical movement. However, this audiovisual harmony is interrupted, like Godard, by technically savvy leaps of the 21st century.
These cuts (or perhaps cuts) struck us not only with sudden bursts of azure, but also with unexpected, often gloriously comical juxtapositions in sound and vision. Imagine a calm, tea-drinking Metallica fan making an instant intervention at a Schubert ballet dance. So imagine such moments coming to you, in a fabulous variety, over and over again.
The movement itself is universally superb, constantly oscillating between harmony and dissonance, beauty, sensuality and comedy. There is also something vaguely sinister about the blue figure whose head is entirely covered by a mask – it is interesting, given the mandatory wearing of the mask for the past 13 and a half months, to consider how much access to the face is essential. expression is our culture.
It would be criminal to disclose the deliciously surprising peculiarities of the coin’s imagery. Suffice it to say that Dive is a work of refreshing originality and a true cinematic treat and absolutely invigorating for the senses.
Laplane and Bonas’ piece is so extraordinary and accomplished that it almost seems unfair to compare it to Odyssey, a film by Nicholas Shoesmith (choreography) and Ciaran Lyons (direction) which releases Tuesday. If he stood alone, the film would attract, I guess, considerable applause. As it stands, Dive’s incredible ingenuity is likely to garner the lion’s share of praise.
That said, Odyssey, in which a young male dancer walks into a (mostly) empty studio with a virtual reality (VI) headset, is an impressive and engaging (almost) 12-minute film. Indeed, like Dive, one of its notable strengths is that it emphasizes the film’s unique powers and possibilities, rather than just filming choreography created for the stage.
The back-and-forth between the physical and virtual realities of the protagonist is intrinsically and irresistibly cinematic. At one point, the VI spins the dancer in alarmed circles as he is taunted by menacing, creeping human figures. To another, he is charmed by a group of dancers surrounding him. Whether these young women are benign or something more sinister (like the sirens of an alternate reality) is extremely uncertain.
The piece, which is perfectly danced throughout, is accompanied, and rightly so, by the baffling and premonitory electronic music of Craven Faults and Squarepusher.
Together, this beautiful pair of dance shorts underscores not only the Scottish Ballet’s commitment to contemporary dance, but also its remarkable capacity for adaptation and innovation in times of crisis.
As we in the UK countries break out of the pandemic restrictions, the dance will return to its natural, living state. However, like the cinematic work created by Pina Bausch, Dive, in particular, will continue to demand our attention.
Dive (available now) and Odyssey (available from Tuesday 4 May) can be viewed via the Scottish Ballet website until 30 May: scottishballet.co.uk