On the page, romance often burns from boredom to fiery passion. The loudest and brightest, such as Romeo and Juliet, Eurydice and Orpheus, continue on as epic, iconic lovers. They find their way into the atmosphere somehow.
That might be lost on a choreographer less in touch with environmental impact than Maria Nilsson Waller. Her absorbing new work is the conclusion of Terra Nullius, a triptych of dances about unclaimed territories. Last Land, which premiered in 2012, reconstructed Bir Tawil and Antarctica. Then came Founder in 2014, exploring the deep sea floor. merry.go.round casts the furthest look yet: the unknown cosmos is vast, and we are small individuals within it.
Such an expanse comes to us in the form of a waiting room, which, in Waller’s sly design, is beige, with Swiss balls and a fake plant. Bodies slowly slip off chairs and roll across the floor. Finding their own orbits, they go round and round to the buzzing sound of a drone. These are the monotonous routines of our lives.
Out of this crawl comes a vigorous duet. Elin Hedin and David Nondorf connect, with stirring glimpses of romance and tragedy. It ends in rejection, the stuff of Héloïse and Abélard, but then the rest of the stage starts to speed up, nudged by Waller’s sound design, skipping with jazz as the greats fall in and out of love over and over.
We see party-goers lean intimately into conversation. A woman (Justine Cooper) flashes with fear, propelled by a force unknown to her. If connection is both a thrill and a mystery, Waller’s choreography responds as such, allowing for improvisation. Dancers busy for props and costuming, but find each other when they can. It’s a joy.
But romance will find a way, even in unlikely circumstances. When Waller’s production moves into the shadows, a kind of Hades underworld, light comes only as sweet, starry reflections from a clandestine lover’s sequins. That the stage then opens up, gripped by space exploration and NASA reports, suggests more public wonders. A worker (Mikel Aristegui) handling a cloth drops what he’s doing, as if engrossed by footage from a space voyage, a sad picture of lethargy. Some marvels are more tempting than others.
He beautifully assists a lone woman (Marcia Liu) from a chair. The whole cast join in, becoming her support for the final moments. There might well be a less saccharine way to bring this production to a close. Such a grand bid for pathos isn’t necessary, especially when Waller already has us convinced. The universe will deliver.
merry.go.round was at Dublin Dance Festival until May 24th. For more details, click here.