REVIEW: UMS presents Ballet Preljocaj

Thought-provoking, inspiring, and very bizarre, Ballet Preljocaj’s performance of And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace was how I spent my outstanding Friday night. The performance had everything from enormous plastic sheets, 15-foot metal block-wall-things, frighteningly-athletic dancers, and two baby sheep. It was truly spectacular.

The subject of the dance was the apocalypse. As the dancers fought, made passionate love, crouched and swayed, the audience felt the earth crumble and collapse. They performed a few routines using flags of different countries of the world, soaking them in water and whipping them out to dry. As the full arc of the show came to a resolution, all the flags lay dampened on stage. Two baby sheep were released next on the stage, symbolizing a sort of rebirth of civilization, in my opinion. That part was a little much. I was so distracted by the sheep and nervous that they were going to run off stage that I kind of forgot I was watching a dance performance. There was an air pocket in one of the wet flags and one sheep was poking it until finally it daringly leapt over the bubble. With that final image, the dancers faded into the blackness and the curtain fell. It was weird, but awesome all at once. I left the performance breathless and awestruck.

This dance struck me as more complex than any other dance performance I’d ever seen. The dancers moved so fast for so long during the show; I felt breathless. They had a bunch of different props too! The metal block-wall-things, sheep, plaster sheets, silver trays, metal-helmet contraptions, books, and chairs. It was raw and sharp. One of the most memorable moments was when a series of metal chains fell from the ceiling. They would drop two, as one man danced below. And I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this – I certainly hadn’t – but when chains fall, they fall in a straight line before crumbling to the ground with a sharp clang. It was super cool and added to the intensity of the performance.

As an intern at UMS, I got to ask people what they thought of the show and record their reactions after the performance. I talked to a few dance majors who were so astounded and inspired by the performance that they could hardly contain their enthusiasm. Others felt that the performance was strange, albeit beautifully done. I didn’t hear any overtly negative reviews. The harshest criticism I overheard was just: “What was that about?” (To see some of the video clips of reactions check out this page on the UMS Lobby website!) There’s something in letting go while watching these sorts of performances – you have to just sit back and let the show wash over you. I think this is why dance, especially modern dance, takes some viewing experience. I’ve found that the more modern dance I see, the more I am able to let go and just roll with the performance without overly analyzing what I’m seeing.

Thanks to UMS for bringing this immensely-talented dance company!

P.S. If you liked this (or think you would have), be sure to check out Compagnie Käfig when they come to UMS in February!