Company Chordelia’s The Chosen opens with a strong audiovisual premise. The sound of waves surging and receding is accompanied by six dancers seated on mirrored boxes who slide to the ground and then return to their seated position in rhythm with the waves. The sea’s ebb and flow are the perfect, although not entirely unique, a metaphor for the subject The Chosen claims to tackle: “our mortality.”
Unfortunately, opening imagery aside, Scottish-born company artistic director Kally Lloyd Jones’s work quickly slides into a jumbled cliché. Described in program notes as “a deeply personal reflection on how we experience the time left to us,” there seems very little that is particularly personal. In fact, almost every aspect from imagery to choreography is in actuality quite mundane. A series of hackneyed tableaus show the dancers riding the train, at a club, having a coffee, etc. in an attempt to create a montage effect that does little to further the piece’s premise or even clarify it.
These scenes stand is a stark contrast with another of the show’s claims, that the work is “A reference to The Rite of Spring – where the “Chosen One” is to be sacrificed but also revered and honoured.” There is a visual reference to Nijinsky’s Rite, but it comes in the all too obvious huddling of the ensemble as they shuffle from foot to foot like the original ballet’s pagans. Yet, when it comes to reflecting reverence and honour or even the identification of a “chosen one,” there’s not a trace to be found.
The work is an ensemble piece in which no one shines, as the group blends into a boring blur of insipid movement. Half of said movement is an array of contemporary dance’s greatest hits: nervous shaking and foot-tapping, frenzied scratching, hand wringing, the silent screams of the dancers staring at the audience mouth twisted and agape. The other half is dedicated entirely and frustratingly to pushing the mirrored boxes across the stage, endlessly stacking and lining them up.
Any director or choreographer should know that dedicating so much time and energy to clumsily moving set pieces around the space is a visual and technical faux pas. In the case of The Chosen, it detracts further from what was already a tedious and jumbled work.