French choreographer David Wampach‘s Sacre at the Invisible Dog Art Center (unrecognizable- its white gallery/warehouse vibe magically transformed into a black box theater) was a brief and powerful nugget inspired by Nijinsky’s controversial Rite of Spring. This performance was presented by the ‘Dog, PS122’s COIL Festival, and FIAF’s new French Highlights series.
Wampach and Tamar Shelef begin the work uniformly attired in costumes inspired by medieval knights, and the piece indeed has the feel of an epic quest. A unique element was the use of the performers’ own breath as the primary musical accompaniment. Both perform much of the piece panting, wide eyed gazes directed at the audience, the dancers’ expressions alternating between extreme fear and shocked triumph. They interacted in a manner both ferocious and odd, made even stranger by never looking at each other, only strafing the audience with their pained and panicked gazes. They wrestled, wrangled and even sucked at each other’s bodies, from within their heightened state.
There were occasional moments of what felt like unintentional humor, as when the pair join to pull a sword from a column. Or perhaps it was the humor that comes from the attempt at sustaining a mood of such intensity- the audience occasionally laughing to give ourselves relief. It didn’t take away from the piece at all- for those who were lucky enough to catch its short, sold-out (and free!) run during the busy festival month, Sacre will stand as a memorable experience.