Of the ballets performed, I have been lucky enough to see Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s Silent Screen live when the company visited Melbourne in July 2011. It was the third ballet they presented, alongside Jiří Kylián’s Double You and Crystal Pite’s The Second Person, each unlike anything before I had witnessed. A new word they’ve added to the lexicon. To be able to see Silent Screen once more, and this time know a little of what was in store only added to my excitement. The evocative, and instantly recognisable Philip Glass score (Glassworks (1982), and The Hours soundtrack (2002)) makes this abstract journey an emotional one. As with the great silent films of Jean Epstein, an abstract tale may reject narrative, but this does not mean that the story that unfolds is one lacking drama and emotion. Think of those black-and-white films you have seen, of the body language the actors expressed through eyes and movement, and the optical illusion, that beautiful eye-deception of trompe-l’œil that lets you think there are more dancers on the stage than actually are. It is this, this drama and tragedy by way of Hitchcock, which you can see in Silent Screen, and the playing-with-the-audience film shown within a film. (It is interesting to note that the small child who features in the film shown projected behind the dancers is actually the choreographer’s own daughter.)
Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s most recent work, Shine a Light, came together in a two and a half week period, they tell us during intermission. Step Lightly, Solitaire, Susto, Start to Finish, Shoot the Moon, Sleight of Hand, Swan Song: as with their previous ballets, the letter S serves as a playful and familiar signpost. Shine a Light is based on the nightmares of a little girl and the sounds that dreams have when we recall them upon waking. Fears are the inspiration and it is truly a dark and fearful work, with its dancers who creep and prowl and draw ever closer to you. Sol León remarked that she likes how the title implies a nightlight left on for a sleeping child. The costumes of the four male dancers have diagonal braces that slash across their chests and look, at first, like deep gashes that reveal a black or blank cavity where a body ought to be. Or like ink drawn. But, just like a dream or a nightmare, a closer look and we see something different. The costumes in this piece illustrate the artist Francis Bacon’s words that echo the work’s intention: ‘In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness has to be present.’ Shine a Light is like a drawing in the sense of the balance of light and shade, or chiaroscuro, the clear and bright held in perfect balance by the dark and obscure.
Alexander Ekman’s Left Right Left Right has brilliant energy and it makes one think not of running away to join a circus but to join NDT2. This playful piece stays with me as I think about how we travel through our day. As one of the dancers states, it really would be more fun to see people walking like a crab, or leaping, scuttling or rolling to work. As with the other ballets we see in the film, including Ohad Naharin’s Secus, control, and a carefully held balance of beauty and power is brought to the fore. The use of the repeated motif in Secus creates the impression of all the dancers moving as though part of one giant cohesive body. In the opening of Left Right Left Right the dancers stand side-on with their necks thrust forward and their faces spun round, looking out at the audience. They call to mind a pack of sculpted zombies. This ability to transform from one expression, pose, feeling to another is what makes them and the ballets they perform so beautiful. Movement and expression are everything, and I forget that I am in the cinema watching a film. Film can and does transport.
 Epstein quoted in Richard Abel, French Film Theory and Criticism, 1907–1939: Volume 1, 1907-1929 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988), p 235, sourced: http://sensesofcinema.com/2010/great-directors/jean-epstein/
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