French-Belgium choreographer Damien Jalet and Japanese sculpture Kohei Nawa’s Vessel is an unforgettable visual metamorphosis of extraordinary bodies transforming into mind-bending sculptures, that feels like watching a live art installation.
Vessel opens with three shapes on a black mirrored stage featuring a rock formation, set to an electro-pond-like soundscape created by Marihiko Hara. Immediately we are transported to to another dimension. The stage becomes luminous as the shapes begin to ripple with minute movements, signifying the beginnings of life. The dancers unfold their melded limbs and bare bodies that were positioned and wrapped as one as their cells seem to split and they separate into two. It’s an absorbing scene, that feels like a moving meditation.
The shapes continue to evolve to become frog-like created from the dancers’ long arms, legs and torsos as they take position on the rock. After a slow transformation, the piece moves into a moment levity as the frogs bounce up and down to some rumbling bass beats. Moving onto the dark stage, which we realise is covered in water, the amphibians slosh and flip and create spurts of water.
The bodies then come together to form the vessels of birth. With a mix of legs and arms, the dancers’ form create rock like vaginal entities from which new creatures emerge birthed. It’s an arresting scene. It’s intelligent, and clearly comes from exceptionally creative minds.
But as the piece runs for an hour straight, it’s quite a challenge to endure, especially towards the drawn out end when the bodies become phallic and covered in glistening quite gross goo. I imagine this piece will split the audience; some walked out, others constantly checking their watches and others standing in ovation at the end. But it’s definitely a piece that I will never forget, one that made me question dance, while watching the dancers in awe as they performed what must be a physical endurance.