At Montpellier Danse, Leaning Into New Work as the Void Looms

At Montpellier Danse, Leaning Into New Work as the Void Looms

A second section opens with gentler, diffused lighting cocooning two men (Salvatore De Simone and Jasiah Marshall, both gorgeous), dressed in transparent white tops and trousers. Their long, tender duo, to calm, slow sound, is full of dynamic contrasts: high, balletic extensions, melting collapses, sharp jumps, delicate picky steps.

The men leave the stage hand-in-hand; we are back in a human world of emotion and connection, underscored by the pounding heartbeat sounds of the score as dancers crisscross the stage with clean, balletic jumps, and two women move in a cone of reddish light with slow, uncertain grace. The lights dim and the sound of breathing fills the air, the lights flaring with each breath. Mortality and vulnerability loom.

When the lights come up again, we’re underwater (or perhaps in amniotic fluid), in a hazy blue-lighted universe where dancers in short gauzy tunics form anemone-like flowering shapes with their hands and wrists. (The wordless singing sound here feels sentimental: The soundscape, created by Nicolas Becker and LEXX, uses artificial intelligence to recompose itself at each performance to create a “live” music effect.)

That movement expands to full-body swaying, curving, back-bending groupings. But by the end of “Deepstaria,” McGregor has moved back into kinetic overdrive, amplified by flickering lights that create a rain-like effect. It’s beautiful and it’s too much. Relief comes with a final, lyrical, tentative solo from Rebecca Bassett-Graham, before she walks toward the black depths of the stage.

Like many McGregor works, “Deepstaria” can feel overloaded. But there is something deeply touching here in the presentation of the human body — so small and frail amid the voids beyond our knowledge and imaginative grasp, yet also so ingenious, resolute and brave.

Also on the opening weekend came a recent work from the Berlin-based, South African choreographer Robyn Orlin, “how in salts desert is it possible to blossom,” which uses the talents of the Garage Dance Ensemble and the uKhoiKhoi musical duo, from a small town in the semidesert region of the Northern Cape. (The title comes from the magnificent display of wildflowers that bloom there every spring.)

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