Bullets shatter a peaceful school or shopping mall. Instantly Bound, created by Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers for Philadelphia’s Ballet X last spring, fractures the events of such a day. Fragments of scenes—short-lived vignettes, time reversals, repetitions, what ifs—cross & recross a stage shrouded in darkness slashed by spotlights.
On Monday, the new Whim W’Him cast assembled to learn the piece:
“I always think remounting a work will be easy,” Olivier remarked during a break, “but then I remember how intricate it is.” A section he calls “the marching band,” I see as a phalanx of Neanderthals in a rhythmic shuffle. Together they move in heavy, solid beats, thud thud thud t thud, while sinuous writhings and bendings are choreographed to implode within the group. Moments of separated darting fear contrast with slow-motion manifestations of enveloping community—”organic being all together.” Says Olivier: “It’s not about getting to the position. Don’t think about positions, keep moving. Think about connections.”
An hour into rehearsal, the dancers take a five minute break, followed by a rapid routine of grueling ab exercises, led by a different dancer each day.
The atmosphere in the studio is good-natured but very intent. After that “rest,” it’s back to work, fitting together the new segments, figuring out with the help of a Ballet X rehearsal video, how each of the complex sequences is constructed. Patterns are traced out: a pair of triangles, one trio standing in a crouch, the other on their knees. Quickly, the shapes fade into a clump then stretch out in a diagonal, which vanishes too as soon as it is formed. “Anticipate those movements & connections,” Olivier exhorts the dancers.
Much of the piece is in pairs. Each couple has distinct steps and a different internal dynamic to discover and create. At one point Olivier says with an impish smile, “You can start with your hand down there. Remember, there are no rules. We make the rules.”
But a sense of the fluid quality of movement required is being learned. By the end of each 3-hour rehearsal, more big tracts of the piece are outlined. Monday through Friday this week and next, another layer of dance architecture will be laid down; another layer of refinement will accrue. In the next set of rehearsals, after Thanksgiving, Olivier will start creating his unique and inimitable take on that old ballet classic, Les Sylphides, while Spanish choreographer Juanjo Arques too begins a new piece, both to premiere at the Whim W’Him program in January 2014.