Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Dance Review: Christopher Williams Explores Sainthood with The Golden Legend

Christopher Williams is brilliant! His epic piece, The Golden Legend, ranges from the gruesome to the divine with a little light-hearted fun woven in. The piece includes three hours of brilliant dancing,
puppetry, theater, and live music. Williams’ attention to detail is astounding and his passion shines through every aspect of the evening. He even translates the lyrics of the songs in the program notes and tells us the stories of the 17 saints that we will see come to life through the lens of his wild imagination. The cast includes some of the greatest male dancers working today and every single one of them brought their A-game!

Of note is Stuart Singer, playing a stunning Saint Eustace, patron Saint of Hunters. Wearing large antlers, he enters corralled by a wolf and a lion. Singer dances exquisitely; technically adept, yet
gritty and earthy. With swift and powerful legs, he fights off an attack by the wolf and lion and the solo concludes with a tiny puppet messiah climbing Singer’s antlers and opening his arms in a vision of
the crucifixion.

Another standout is Reid Bartelme, portraying Saint Giles, patronsaint of cripples and beggars. He appears as a strange amalgam of man and deer, with a red-painted face and large animal ears. A deer puppet enters, seeming quite life-like, wagging her tiny tail. She encourages Saint Giles to suckle from her which brings him to life. Bartleme is vulnerable, yet strong; using his expressive face and body in a poignant series of long balances which undulate one to the next
with his twisting torso. A hunting party finds the pair and, though at first Saint Giles is able to fend them off, eventually the hunters fire an arrow at the deer. Bartelme shields the deer with his body, but the arrow strikes him through the hand. As the doe looks on, her savior dies a slow, heart-wrenching death.

Paul Singh is smooth as silk, beautifully playing Saint Paul the hermit. He begins with mysterious whispers in an ancient tongue coupled with fluid floor work; his woven collar and skirt covering his face. Singh captivates, slipping seamlessly between silly and serious, drawing the audience ever more deeply into the character. At one point he uses his amazing sense of timing in a sequence of facial contortions, changing his emotions as quickly and easily as he changes his expression. Singh really goes there and we go there with him.

Throughout the entirety of The Golden Legend, Williams encourages us to dream and to believe in those things we cannot see; from tortured martyrs to mad hermits to Santa Claus. His vision is complex, but he realizes it so completely that we, the audience, are able to embrace it without doubt or disbelief. Every aspect of the performance is extravagant and complete; the dancing, puppetry, theater, live music, lighting and amazing costumes all come together to create a deep and fulfilling world. This may be the event of the year. See this dance!

iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Hope Davis
Performance: Christopher Williams
Choreography: Christopher Williams
Dance Theater Workshop, New York City Performance
Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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