The following review is courtesy of Paula Mann, Co-Founder and Choreographer, Time Track Productions
“ In Bella Copia”, Deja Donne presents characters that are propelled through a series of powerful sexual games with humiliation as their common thread.
The work centers around obsessive love and sex…and of course, relationships. In the beginning our master of ceremonies sings ‘I can’t give you anything but love, baby’ and welcomes us to a world of never-ending happiness where anything is possible and all our secret dreams come true. The dreams he speaks of are in the realm of sexual fantasy, not world peace. Yet it’s a hopeful beginning that moves from ideal love and romance to a grim reality of sex as violence and humiliation. They take you on a journey through an almost hopelessly manipulative view of interpersonal relationships.
My first response to the subject matter, when I realized how it would be played out, was: “ Uh oh…another piece from European choreographers about sex in male/female relationships”. I’ve seen quite a few works that deal with this same subject. And it’s a universal theme, who amongst us can’t relate to it? I feel similarly about nudity in work, so many have used it, it’s lost it value to me, so initially I was guarded in my reaction. However in this work the nudity was an absolute necessity to the narrative and I was won over, not by my interest in the subject matter, but by the skill in which they were examining it. The strength and conviction of the performers seduced me, in a manner of speaking, and I was drawn in by their commitment to the material. Each performer was a unique character, adept at conveying meaning through strong focus and intention. The performers pushed themselves to an emotional edge; the raw energy conveyed the desperation of their situation.
The choreography stemmed directly from the characters and the dynamics of their relationships. Aside from a formalistic introductory quartet, the vocabulary flowed out of the interpersonal emotional transactions. The movement itself was body centric: sinewy, long extended sequences of the spine into a deep lunge, slashing arms around a partner, high extended legs designed to entice, and some literal, sexually referential gestures. The ideas that the movement communicated were clear, concise and sometimes disturbingly funny. Half way through, a woman with a long veil encourages (pleads, actually) for two men to kiss her. Timidly they comply. In pleasure she cries out kiss me by the lake’ and they dutifully progress three or four steps in space, and voila (!) they are at the lake. More kissing. Again she cries, kiss me by the mountains (two or thee steps forward), kiss me by the field, etc. Her desire knows no bounds, she must be kissed everywhere. Finally the men get carried away and over take her playfulness with anger that turns into a violent rape. Afterwards she stands facing the audience for a long time, as if searching for strangers to explain the circumstances she has found herself in.
A stark stage design compliments the ominous tone of the work. The set consists of rolling light trees and a long rack of colorful clothing that creates a wall that separates the stage space. Through the hanging clothing the performers enter and retreat, back and forth as if entering from a secret world. One can only guess what happens behind the hanging costumes.
The members of Deja Donne examine this well worn theme with depth and power that makes for compelling dance theater, whose provocative images continues to resonate.