Dewey Dell’s Cinquanta Urlanti, Quaranta Ruggenti, Sessanta Stridenti (Arts House/Next Wave)
We know them in English as the Furious Fifties, Roaring Forties and Screaming Sixties -- the windy latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere, but in Italian, the fifties howl (urlo) and the sixties are strident (stridente). The forties still roar.
I confess, I didn’t give wind so much as a thought during Dewey Dell’s storm-force show. I was too busy being blown away! But how on earth do I describe this show without diminishing it? Without pinning the butterfly to the board? Without reducing it to the sum of its (admittedly miraculous) parts?
It’s recognisably dance -- spectacularly limby and controlled, even in the nunchaku-like flailing of the arms -- but it’s the dance of the computer-animated aliens. Possibly non-organic aliens too!
The look of the piece had me thinking of that Philippe Decouflé choreographed video for New Order’s True Faith. There’s a weird mime element to Cinquanta Urlanti. Well, there is to my eye. That’s partly a function of the jodhpur-padded hips on the dancers. The headgear, too, is disconcerting: the three faces are reduced to a ringflash of white. The lighting is so carefully judged that we can allow ourselves to imagine that we’re looking through each head. Through a hole. Think hoods and hollow men and imagery from horror comics, and the fantasy sequences in Led Zeppelin’s film The Song Remains The Same.
There is a miraculous detail in each thrust of the hand and each held gesture. At times the three bodies form fan-like patterns or seem to spell out a word or make a pictogram. I imagined, for a moment, what it might be like to be the alien (40,000 years in the future) that finds the gold-plated copper record sent out into the cosmos with Voyager, by Carl Sagan and NASA, in 1977, and trying to decode the playing instructions.
"In the upper left-hand corner is an easily recognized drawing of the phonograph record and the stylus carried with it. The stylus is in the correct position to play the record from the beginning. Written around it in binary arithmetic is the correct time of one rotation of the record, 3.6 seconds, expressed in time units of 0,70 billionths of a second, the time period associated with a fundamental transition of the hydrogen atom. The drawing indicates that the record should be played from the outside in. Below this drawing is a side view of the record and stylus, with a binary number giving the time to play one side of the record - about an hour...”
From the first seconds of this show to the sustained fade out, god knows exactly how long later, I felt I was in good hands. Sure hands. Goodly hands. In the hands of artists who knew how to dial it up without deafening me, who knew how to make me quake without smashing me to bits. In the hands of artists who love every single element of their medium and know its capacity. Artists who believe in the collective act of theatre.
This was church, man! Numinous.
Ah, now I’m getting there.
The German theologian Rudolf Otto -- who wrote the proverbial book on the numinous -- reckoned an encounter with the divine had a couple of elements: one was trembling or quaking in fear; another was fascination, a kind of compulsive attraction; a third was that it was a personal experience -- a communion if you like -- with something alien. With something wholly other.
So, dear reader, when I call Cinquanta Urlanti, Quaranta Ruggenti, Sessanta Stridenti divine art, I mean it more-or-less literally. Alas, there is just one more performance here. (I saw the third in a four performance season, last night.) Dewey Dell has a second show (a collaboration with local performers) opening later this week.
Photographs by Demetrio Castellucci
Cinquanta Urlanti, Quaranta Ruggenti, Sessanta Stridenti by Agata Castellucci, Demetrio Castellucci, Teodora Castellucci and Eugenio Resta. Performed by Sara Angelini, Agata Castellucci and Teodora Castellucci.
Choreographed by Teodora Castellucci. Original music by Demetrio Castellucci. Sets and costumes by Eugenio Resta. Set realised by Rinaldo Rinaldi. Sound by Marco Canali.
At Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, May 21.