Strings, Simplicity & Sheer Movement - A Dance Review on "Lullaby"

A Dance Performance Review on ArTISTREE SELECTS: Panta Rei Danseteater’s Lullaby

A lullaby suggests song, innocence, youth and protection. Directly addressed in the title Lullaby, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production invokes subtle undertones of these images and meanings to shed light on today’s political climate around the world. As part of ArtisTree’s Moving Pieces dance season,  Panta Rei Danseteater (Oslo, Norway) performed a double-bill dance production entitled Lullaby. Featuring live musical accompaniment and three virtuosically powerful male dancers, Lullaby was an overwhelming performance experience that traversed a spectrum of emotions.  

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Part 1

Preluding with a live string duo, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility was immediately established. As the music performed by Gustavo Tavares and Sverre Indris Joner continued to build, the jovial and playful movements of the three male dancers, Matias Rønningen, Johnny Autin, and Robert Guy escalated into forceful and impactful movements that formed hostilely aggressive relationships amongst the dancers. Choreographed by Anne Holck Ekenes and Pia Holden, this piece displayed a contrast between the play of games and the play of power. The simple act of mirroring movement was innovatively explored, as one dancer moved  as a soloist but in synchronisation with another dancer who was dancing in a duo. The play on cause and effect was so compelling. Suggesting that one can be affected by tensions without being physically touched.

The music composed by Sverre Indris Joner was filled with such care and detail, creating moments in which the melodies of universal lullabies could be faintly heard under the starkly melancholic score. The basic wooden school chairs were more than just props, as they signified territories, barricades, rest, unity and division. There was strength in the use of relatable symbols, from the costumes that were casual and recognisable, to the gestures that were clearly identifiable. The first part of Lullaby explored dark and intense themes that kept us locked on the edge of our seats . 

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Part 2

Returning to their instruments after changing into a suit and bowtie, a new beginning was set. The stage set itself was changed, as the wooden school chairs were replaced with 6 white toddler chairs with cute cartoon silhouettes of animals engraved into the middle struts of the backrest. Opening with an upbeat and jazzy music score, a spotlight hovered over one of the male dancers who was all suited up in black with a dapper smirk on his face. The contemporary dance movements of the three males were so fluid, dynamic and dazzling that they seemed to mimic qualities similar to a magician. Playing with the toddler chairs as though playing musical chairs, the second part of Lullaby showcased the juvenile lightheartedness of this seven letter word. The humorous use of language and numbers was ingeniously used by choreographer Hélène Blackburn and dramaturge Kjell Moberg. The use of lighting created this mystical magical mood as lighting designer Joakim Brink strategically placed the timing of the lighting effects in line with the dancer’s movements. In juxtaposition with the first part of the production, tensions were low and spirits were high as the performers banded together to display their humorous wit and vitality. 

Rising to the occasion, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production of Lullaby uses various elements of art and theatre to take its audience on an emotional journey. Challenging us all to think critically and playfully about the world we live in.

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Photo Credits: Courtesy of ArtisTree and Panta Rei Danseteater. Photos by: Trine Sirnes