Wrapping up their 50th anniversary season, Scottish Ballet presents This is My Body… to the Joyce Theater and eager New York City audiences. This double bill elicits moments of laughter, furrowed brows, and philosophical contemplation – welcoming the theater-goer’s mind to explore some of life’s confusions while also enjoying dance.
First to open the evening was Sophie Laplane’s comedic exploration of human physique, Sibilo. Set to an original music composition by Alex Menzies, the piece evokes a sense of humor and humanity through deep electronic heartbeats juxtaposed by light, trill whistling. Sibilo, in fact, means whistle in Latin. In what is perhaps the main takeaway of the piece, the mysterious title on the surface appears abstract and yet when broken down is simple and relatable.
Like the title, the piece often seems like it’s going in one direction yet surprises by going in another. Before the curtain rises, the audience is greeted by amusing sounds of whistling paired with typical classical instruments. Curtain up and the entire mood has shifted. Eight dancers are standing in a clump in the middle of the stage. The men are dressed in black business suits, socks, and no shirts. The women in low-cut, purpleish suit vests with shorts and socks as well. They appear almost corporate. The music enters low and dramatic, a distinctive rhythmic beat.
The first movements are typical contemporary choreography. The amoeba-like clump of dancers has been done before and in more creative ways. The dancers then pair off into synchronized pas de deux, sprinkled with momentary canons.
However, in this case, the four simultaneous pas de deux end up being less effective than just one might be. The rhythmic heartbeat of the music drives the choreography to be tense and angular – positions are hit rather than breathed through, allowing for striking physical connections between dancers like when the couples partner neck on neck.
Things brighten up when the whistling music returns, and two dancers break off into a sprightly pas de deux. Claire Souet and Thomas Edwards are breaths of fresh air in a silly pas de deux filled with comical angles and upper body gyrations (which make several appearances in the piece).
They end in a lovable moment by throwing an imaginary ball which they then watch fly up and over and into the hands of one of their friends. Another standout was a short solo performed by Rimbaud Patron in which the choreographer welcomes much needed fluidity and smoothness into the piece. The introduction of attitude turns and grounded softness releases the viewer from the hold of the stiff themes of the piece.
There are touches of campy moments weaved in – alone they are not compelling but pieced together, it works. Everything culminates with whistling tarantella-like music, welcoming all the dancers back to the stage. Perhaps the most powerful moment in the piece is when the dancers line up shoulder to shoulder, allowing physicality and humanity to become the evident thread throughout; a gentle intimacy and understanding left on the stage.