Labyrinth of Love is a new commission by choreographer Marguerite Donlon and composer Michael Daugherty. It features a number of diverse love poems from throughout the ages including Sappho, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and contemporary works, all beautifully sung on stage by soprano Sarah Gabriel. There are seven poems in all, and each one is interpreted in a different way in choreography, musical style and visual backdrops. The set and costumes are minimalist, allowing us to focus on the artistry and athleticism of the dancers without distraction. My personal favourite was Liz’s Lament about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. The audio-visuals are particularly effective during this piece with a backdrop of cascading droplets of water transforming to diamonds and then to stones as the stars’ relationship flourishes and then dies.
The second piece is Roses by choreographer Paul Taylor. This is a more traditional and romantic work, featuring the music of Richard Wagner and Heinrich Baermann which allows the orchestra to display its skills. Five couples circle and weave around the stage in perfect harmony with the music and with each other, offering us another perspective on love and relationships.
Dutiful Ducks is a solo piece first created for Michael Clark by Richard Alston in 1982. Dane Hurst performs the piece brilliantly but it is a slight work compared to the other three, with a basic repetitive soundtrack.
The final piece is Sounddance by Merce Cunningham from 1975 and inspired by the words of James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake. Like that novel, this too is a complex piece. David Tudor’s electronic score is incredible – urgent, driving, unexpected. One at a time the dancers enter and join in an elaborate and frenetic pattern, with so much going on the audience can only stare and wonder.
Overall, this was a very different evening of dance and some of the music may not appeal to everyone’s taste but it was certainly a thought provoking, challenging and immensely enjoyable experience.