pied piper

Ok, I admit the title is an obscure play on words on several levels. “Pied” is meant to evoke the concept of dance from the French word pied, “foot,” while “piper” is from the name of the dance troupe–“George Piper Dances”–we saw Tuesday night. And, just as the Pied Piper of fable mesmerized and enchanted the children of Hamlin, George Piper Dances enchanted the audience with a dance piece called Mesmerics. Got it?

The first piece the troupe performed, William Forsythe’s Steptext from 1984, was described in the program as “a spellbinding exercise in deconstructed classicism. Enormously challenging for its four-person cast, Steptext is a powerful display of dance at its very limits.” The piece didn’t look “enormously challenging” to me, though admittedly where dance is concerned looks can be deceiving. It was complex, but it left me completely cold. The only thing I did find interesting was how any interaction between opposite-sex partners was organic and fluid, while that between same-sex dancers felt tense and conflicted, almost confrontational, with gestures giving a strong impression of “back off, buddy.”

Pieces two and three, though, Christopher Wheeldon’s Mesmerics and Russell Maliphant’s Torsion respectively, were just amazing. The former really lived up to its name; a series of repeated and restructured movements set to the similarly repetitive music of Philip Glass and involving the entire five-person troupe was compelling and hypnotic.

And Torsion was, as the program described, “a spectacular example of strength and balance work, with an intuitive understanding of coordination. Created in 2002, Torsion is a graceful, compelling, atmospheric and technically brilliant example of dance drawn to its ultimate expression.” Performed as a male duet by the two principals, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, the piece moved seamlessly and with the appearance of effortlessness from simple individual movements to complex feats of balance and strength, with the two dancers sharing and alternating the roles of balancer and balanced, holder and held. Beautiful, evocative and inspiring, truly; I kept catching myself holding my breath in awe.

The three pieces were interspersed with personal video clips–with a home movie feel–taken by the two charming and disarming men around the world as they discussed their work, their surroundings and their lives while meeting with choreographers, rehearsing (allowing themselves to be seen occasionally as klutzy and graceless as the rest of us), joking, sightseeing and even, in one case, stripping down and bathing (and, William Trevitt, you’re a gorgeous man).