Using movement to express feelings and emotions is as old as humanity. Our ability to stand, leap, fall, touch and caress for purposes other than basic survival inspires those with the gift to speak with their bodies and those with the desire to see and feel their message.
With Return to Eden, the stage becomes West Cork (Ireland)—a delectable, pristine backdrop for dancer Gillian Knebel’s quartet of solo works. Performing outdoors can never be replicated on the stage, remedied here by utilizing Mark Minard’s considerable filmmaking skills. The drawback, not surprisingly, is the absolute necessity for one point of view, where in live dance (or theatre or opera for that matter) it is up to the audience to decide what to focus on or ignore. Happily, many shots are purposely blurry, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks of what’s behind the murky veil, freeing the imagination to soar with the artists’.
Peter Green’s music, more soundscape than hear-it-on-its-own composition, fills the ear with dulcet strings, punchy woodwinds (noticeably the flute lines), other-world harp and—especially in “Primal Earth”—a near overdose of minimalism that nods respectfully to Philip Glass.
Knebel creates a marvellous oneness with nature. Her hands are especially adept at becoming her surroundings, be it the flock of overhead birds in “Woman of the Birds,” the muck and moss of “Primal Earth” (its bookend submerged hands frame the gritty celebration of raw life most effectively), or a wonderful link from the flute of the track to her extended arms in “The Lake”—as if she had just played the melodic line herself.
To be sure, there are a few jerky transitions where the smooth flow of her body is disturbed by the abrupt edits (“Woman of the Birds”), but all is forgiven with the beautiful dissolves (e.g., “Nature’s Enchantment” lost in deep thought from the trees only to “resurface” amongst the lily pads) and long shots of mist, sun and splashing water.
Self described as art that “can be viewed in its own right and as part of a holistic narrative,” it’s easy to understand why the movements feel complete but not part of a master plan of expression.
No worries there. Experimental work is just that. Knebel might well consider a longer narrative form and perhaps her next “Eden” might include an “Adam” to double the potential for even broader reflection on the art of life. JWR