Review: A Choreographer in Conversation With James Joyce

Like the book, the dance progresses as a series of episodes. Roche seems to have chosen some of her eighteen sections of Joyce, interpreting some more literally than others, and establishing certain gestural motifs that give a sense of cohesion. Perhaps the most repetitive and meaningful, though sometimes a little too heavy, is the heart hand with cupped or upwardly open fingers paired with the throbbing of the chest.

In one episode, Yusuf takes the stage and retrieves a synthetic heart from under his shirt and offers it to the angelic Kuni. Roche carefully chooses when and how much language is offered. The following sentence is one of just a few examples of him on screen.

“Broken heart. After all, it’s the pump that pumps thousands of gallons of blood every day. One fine day, it goes nuts, and there you are. Lungs, heart, liver. Old rusty pump: other things.” I care about resurrection and life.”

Under the blazing red lighting of Davison Scandlet, religious imagery slowly cascades down in a violent dance, in which the performer himself becomes a beating heart, four chambers beginning and ending in harmony. It continues until it collapses and only Yusuf is left lying there. Lie down on the floor. (Cernot returns for something of a grief ritual, perhaps resurrection.) Also, the dancer taps her torso, as if trying to find her guts.

Given Roche’s artistic medium, the body, it makes sense that she leans towards this physical image. From a source known for her alienation, she squeezes her emotions and humanity. She also incorporates themes of eroticism, especially in her penultimate and climactic episode, where all the dancers are anonymized with her floral body her suit and face her cover, lustful and violent. Intertwined in a pose. (Katie Davenport did costume and stage design.) There’s humor here, too, and the interactions are goofier than gritty.

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