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Wendy Whelan in Labyrinth Within directed by Pontus Lidberg Wendy Whelan in Labyrinth Within directed by Pontus Lidberg

Pontus Lidberg’s Labyrinth Within at Baryshnikov Arts Center

Wendy Whelan in Labyrinth Within directed by Pontus Lidberg

Wendy Whelan in Labyrinth Within directed by Pontus Lidberg

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]wedish choreographer and dancer Pontus Lidberg’s Labyrinth Within is a series of pas de deux on film that explores the lines between reality and perception.  The majority of the 28 minute film, with a score created by David Lang (and recorded in 2009 by The Symphony Orchestra of Sweden’s Norrlands Operan) takes place in Giovanni Bucchieri and Wendy Whelan‘s apartment.  The two main characters are in the later years of a now stale marriage.

The story ignites when Bucchieri makes a midday phone call home from work, only to receive no answer. This triggers him to conclude that Whelan is having an affair. In the labyrinth of Bucchieri’s mind we watch as: he squelches this thought and as he drives himself into a murderous rage. Due to the luxuries allowed by film, we can watch the scenarios unravel and intertwine, making it all the more difficult to decipher imaginary from reality. While Lang’s continuous score sets a thrilling and haunting backdrop, the movement often contradicts the melody and at times is unsettling. Perhaps this is to highlight the drama with which we live our lives or to remind us of our separation from reality?

Lidberg himself plays the role of Whelan’s lover (real or fantasy, we’ll never know). Noticeably younger than Whelan, he embodies not only sexuality but also the excitement of and yearning for youth. Lindberg utilizes the camera to minimize shots of his character’s face. This heightens our awareness of his character as a personification of lust and desire for Whelan and of jealousy for Bucchieri. The two dance together tenderly, creating a sensual montage of nearly naked bodies.

Much of the same choreography is later repeated in a lifeless exchange between Bucchieri and Whelan. This is undoubtedly the highlight of Lidberg’s piece. Bucchieri and Whelan come together to embody the epitome of a stale love, anticipating one another’s every gesture with boredom and agitation. They move together out of familiarity and with frustration. The pas, unlike the sensual embrace between Whelan and Lidberg, now unravels into a completely different exchange and expresses the monotony that can reside after a love is buried or lost.

Whelan, at times stoic and cold, at others full of passion, anger, and sadness embodies her character’s struggle and hunger. We see her duality: ice woman and vulnerable child. Bucchieri plays her insecure match well. The scene in which he loses his mind over her assumed infidelity is haunting. The two embrace and ignore each other with an organic nature, which seems to extend past choreography, and instead stem from a communal understanding of the complications implicit in both love and personal thought. Lidberg shines in the role of sexual suitor.

Lidberg’s main point is: we are challenged and incapable of understanding reality because our minds make up stories about everything. Lang’s score, while marvelously intricate and moving, is at times too dramatic and overbearing, and detracts from the character’s interactions. The dancers rehearsed much of the work without the music and this comes across in the film, as there is an uncomfortable distance and opposition between the dance and the melody. Lidberg’s use of film is essential to fixate on complexities of the inner workings of the mind. The film allows us to suffer in the confusion of thought. We watch and are unsure if someone is experiencing, remembering, or imagining. We are victims to our perceptions of Bucchieri’s perceptions. What really happened, we will never know, and this is exactly Lidberg’s message.

Post by Sarah Campbell

Sarah studied journalism at The New School. Her work has been featured in publications including: The Franklin Report, Get Fit Get Life, and Enforced Arch, among others. She danced professionally in ballet companies on the east coast before injury prevented her from furthering her career. Currently she writes freelance in New York City.

Comments (1)

  1. Susan March 6, 2012 at 6:54 am

    You are skilled in writing as you are in dance. Very well conceived piece!

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