Essence was Walker Dance Park Music's first commission with the Royal Opera House. It used as its starting point the poetry of WB Yeats.
Choreographer: Fin Walker
Composer: Ben Park
Dancers: Lee Clayden, Catherine Bennett, Jenny Tattersall, Chris, Simon, Fin Walker
Designer: Es Devlin
Lighting designer: Lucy carter
Dramaturge: Jonathan Myserson
'Thematically, the piece has been structured around Yeats's concept of the self - the masks behind which we hide and the struggle we undergo to find our essential nature. Park's music - scored for five musicians and two singers - has been composed around key verses from the poetry. And Walker's choreography creates charged images of evasion and exposure....the collaborative team of Fin Walker and Ben Park, whose work has become a benchmark for finely understated emotion and precision-tooled form.....' Judith Mackrell The Guardian
'Essence, the second full-length work by choreographer Fin Walker and composer Ben Park, draws from the contemplative poems of W.B. Yeats. Vocal, musical, and movement phrases intertwine and confer as a small orchestra (behind black gauze), two opera singers, a set of neon light tubes, and a quintet of sparkling, forceful dancers share the stage.
Themes of beauty (as mask) and human impotence in the face of relentlessly passing time recur in the words sung with or between bursts of urgent, vigorous dancing. The movement stamps a vital “now” on the meditative stream of thoughts, and draws from them a sense of haste, of need, of resistance. From a quiet, self-absorbed solo of hands caressing a hunched body in a far corner, the movement—in duets, trios, quartets, and finally a quintet—develops into aggressive, explosive projections into space.
The dancers, at first almost rooted to the spot, thrust knees and elbows and feet into space in fast, brutal phrases interspersed between moments of stillness. They use one another as frames at which to hurl themselves and thus reach further with stabbing legs and arms, working with and against anxious, broken rhythms in the music. They drive their bodies like truculent, unpredictable machines. (Hands seem to force legs, arms, and heads into movement.) Bodies fit together like two combs, with limbs piercing through and across, torsos jack-knifing and hooking into each other with furious, fettered energy. Occasional brushing gestures seem to suggest a search for sensitivity and a sense of form within the relentless action—rather, perhaps, like modern life.
Walker, the first dancer to find a real fluency and explode into space, propels herself into a freewheeling loop around the stage. The dancers’ movement becomes looser and more playful, developing a streaming continuity as bodies work together, folding and unfolding one another. They launch themselves at one another from increasingly long—and risky—distances, then travel as a fluid but coherent group around the space. At the end, they stand at the front of the stage, once again brushing their own bodies'.
Reviewed by Lizzy Le Quesne