Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers is concocting a strange and wondrous drama, a tortured story to fractured music. In its convoluted, near-mythic relationships and hallucinatory atmosphere, A Disagreeable Tale of Duplicity forcefully recalls (for me, at least) the dark tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean theater.
With dancer/composer Dylan Ward, Olivier is working to develop the soundtrack.
Based on a renowned classical piano score, but layered over and echoed, intensified and stretched “like salt water taffy” with other sounds, the 20-minute piece will reflect and heighten the claustrophobic emotional terrain of the ballet’s 7 characters.
Via intense colors and dark, brooding scenic design, the new piece will probe a young passion torn apart by the lovers’ own choices and obsessions. From a cornucopia of sources, Olivier is gathering images.
Plot, the nature of each role, casting, the specific movements, and the music’s final form are all still in the early stages of creation, but some decisions have already been made.
To accentuate the oppressive mood, the stage area employed is to be compressed, arranged like a prone pyramid.
With the broad part at the front edge (24′ high, 44′ wide), each successive set of wings will be both shorter and obscure more of the floor, funneling the line of sight back to a central 8′ square box hung with a curtain of black strings, through which the dancers come and go. A charcoal marley (floor) will complete the narrow compass of the stage.
At the center of this nightmarish world are a suffering, self-punishing pair, in black & white.
On the other hand, the principal villain or antagonist, an incubus/succubus, will wear red trousers and a red headdress with ram horns—created by Shelby Adele of PNB and Seattle Opera. Representing an instant, or person, or event that wreaks havoc, this character is a demon who changes forever the life of every unfortunate soul she meets.
Another dancer, sporting suave, coiffed blue wig and slacks, will be a deceiving tempter.
Meanwhile a shadow figure, carrying a hidden knife, has the unpleasant habit of approaching gently, only to deliver a fatal stab in the back.
This singularly nasty cast of characters is rounded off by a duo in decked out in army fatigues, marching through in lockstep, embodying all the weight of society and its restrictive, contradictory demands.
Dance ideas swirl in Olivier’s head, but he refuses to expand them too far in the abstract. As choreographer, he will work with the 7 spirited and diverse dancers he knows so well to fashion—with and from them—a raw tale of deceit, confusion, and bad judgment.
This soon in the game, there are only hints of how it might be embodied by the eager Whim W’Him dancers, so open and fresh-faced off-stage.
“A lot,” he says, “is going to happen in the studio.” Rehearsals begin April 11.