Friday, 8 June 2018

At the end we begin

Time's Mortal Aspect by Charles van der Stappen
Author Ben2
Licence Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported
Source  Wikipedia

Richard Chappell Dance At The End We Begin 6 June 2018, 19:30 Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds

At the end we begin is a 45 minute essay in movement inspired by T S Elliot's Four Quartets.It was performed by four dancers (Iris Borras, Faye Stoeser, Francesco Migliaccio and the choreographer of the work, Richard Chappell) to a score by Samuel Hall. You can get an idea of the show from the trailer.

The poems that inspired Chappell were written between 1936 and 1942 shortly after Elliot had acquired British nationality and converted to Anglicanism. They were written during  one of the darkest periods of modern history, that is to say between the great depression and the second world war.  Having read those poems for the first time only yesterday in order to write this review my impression is of an attempt to make sense of the senseless and comprehend the incomprehensible. Or put another way (and hence the reason for the above photo) a mortals grappling with the concept of eternity.

In a Q & A that followed the performance, Chappell said that he and the dancers had been inspired by the following stanzas:-

PART 1: Burnt Norton

'At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.' - T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

PART 2: East Coker

'The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
Fort he pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.'- T.S. Eliot, East Coker

PART 3: The Dry Salvages

'The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation...' - T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages

PART 4: Little Gidding

'We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.'- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

The last stanza is probably the key to understanding Chappell's choreography work which does have unity but not necessarily Elliot's four poems which possibly do not.  The impression that I got from the choreography was of a cycle not of an individual but of humanity as a whole. Some of the work was easy to understand - the percussion representing gunfire and the dancers dropping to the ground in The Dry Salvages which was written when the war was not going well.  Other bits were much harder to comprehend and have to be seen more than once to be understood properly.  Some audience members saw things I just couldn't see like rapid circular arm movements representing the hands of a clock.

After the show I introduced myself to Chappell as we had been following each other on Facebook for years.  He asked me whether I had enjoyed the show and I said yes but then I reflected that not all art is meant to be enjoyed.   A better word for challenging works is "appreciated".  I think that is what I should have said.   It was not a beautiful work, or an amusing work or a readily comprehensible work but it was definitely a work worth seeing. 

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