Orbo Novo: the New World

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's Orbo Novo. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's Orbo Novo. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Sleek and seductive, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet challenges and inspires with this body and mind interpretation showcasing the full ensemble.

Orbo Novo – the New World is just that – a world of stroke and post-stroke, where the hemispheres of the brain are manifested through entwined bodies, synaptic snapping of limbs and the ooze of gyration.

Neuroanatomist Dr Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoir, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, is the platform as the dance company traces her journey from the moment of affliction to a tainted recovery. The audience is privy to a visual exploration of not just Taylor’s but humanity’s life force, infused strategically with her words, which are delivered with exquisite synchronicity and profound simplicity.

Created by Flemish choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Orbo Novo incorporates disturbed murmurings – first in isolation, then in drone-like unison or with mute accompaniment – which serve to verbally drive the artistic narrative and symbolise the functional dysfunction of impairment. The intricate elongated moves that accompany this are both disturbing and mesmerising.

Cherkaoui explores chaos and order as company members writhe, spin, roll, twist and leap with primate-like strength and ballet-like control; nimble configurations are contrasted by machinations of movement that are eye-bogglingly beautiful. Pacing is particular and mirrors the ebb and flow of recuperation; the overriding impression is one of controlled continuity, with our propensity for adaptation to changing circumstance highlighted. The holistic performance exemplifies this.

While dance is the key element of Orbo Novo, it is the cohesion of set design, costume and music that establishes the core. All of the ample space of the Festival Theatre is utilised, with individual areas of focus defined by Alexander Dodge’s tantalisingly simple scenic design; his towering lattice pieces reflect the themes of duality, providing a framework for freedom and confinement.

Consisting of six two-hinged panels containing 100 open squares each, these mobile constructions are climbed on, beaten against, slithered through, hung from and clung to. The pinnacle is in the final sequence, when one panel is used as a prop; the significance of this sends a strong message about the on-going nature of events in life.

Flowing dresses, vests and dress slacks typify Isabelle Lhoas’ costume design, which often obscures the dancers’ physiques, but again complements the notions of ordered chaos. Woven within this, Cherkaoui provides opportunities for the performers to shed their skins so we are able to recognise the raw power and refined grace of the ensemble.

Performed by the Mosaic String Quartet, Szymon Brzóska’s original score enhances the impact and establishes mood and tone. Completing the package, of course, are the 15 dancers themselves, whose diversity is dynamic and whose skills are exemplary.

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Thank you, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, for reminding us about the essence of our existence.

Orbo Noro was performed at the Festival Theatre as part of the 2015 Adelaide Festival program.

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