To close the evening, Scottish Ballet brought Angelin Preljoçaj’s sacred and carnal MC 14/22 (Ceci, est mon corps) in its U.S. premiere. Inspired by the St. Mark’s version of The Last Supper – “Take, eat: this is my body” – the dancers (evoking the twelve apostles) explore the balance of strength and the indignity in violence.
The curtain opens with three men downstage. Overhead fluorescent light is minimal and clinical. A man is being washed by another man on stage right. It is with great care that he washes the other man, he is thorough and not gentle. On stage left a man with a roll of tape is pulling and tearing repeatedly, with his teeth, and then meticulously taping the floor. He creates an intricate web of crossed tape. Their movements are accompanied by non-music (original sound design by Tedd Zahmal): water dripping, metal clanking together, high pitched noises.
Upstage center is a shelf of eight men stacked upwards: two columns and four rows. The men are in white briefs, their backs to the audience as they lay on their sides. The visual is arresting and gives off a very fetal, birth-like essence. The men move about in intricate and glorified planks for what seems like entirely too long. The jarring effect starts to lessen as the same movements carry on.
Thankfully, the dancers move on; they take apart the shelves to reveal six large silver tables. The men pair off, each taking a table and begin violent duets with one dancer manipulated and thrown about by the other man. The combination of fluorescent lighting and the medical tables resemble a bad situation in a coroner’s room. The violence and the metallic music only intensify until bodies are being tossed, twisted, and thrown about. The sound of skin squeaking against the metal and bodies landing roughly is echoed by the music which reaches a culminating sound of glass breaking and electronic guns going off. The men are well-rehearsed, intensifying the effect of the disturbing scene.
In vignettes strewn between duet duels we see reimaginations of The Last Supper with different themes: eating and feeding, battling with mimed guns and arrows, even a near graphic erotic orgy. At another time, a man religiously repeats a series of steps despite succumbing to having his body gradually taped together. First his eyes are taped over, the plastic wrapped around his head and hair, then his wrist is taped to his forehead, his calf taped to his hamstring, and finally he’s so impaired that he is merely a ball of a body taped together. Yet, he still dances on. Perhaps a comment on man’s undying spirit?
In its closing moments, the tables are re-stacked into a set of stairs. Men take their turn climbing the stairs and falling stiffly into the arms of six other men. The piece leaves behind more questions than answers but certainly commands attention to the subject of strength and vulnerability of the body and the spirit.