Dante Alighieri‘s triptych, The Divine Comedy is regarded as one of the greatest pieces of literature to have ever been written. A long form poem written in three parts; Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, the piece continues to inspire all forms of art today. Written in 1308 and completed a year before Alighieri’s death in 1320, The Divine Comedy taps into the unknown, the afterlife and envisions what lies beyond our physical world.
No matter your background, beliefs, gender or race, there are universal overriding questions that are continually asked. Jose Agudo‘s Paridiso: Man’s Enduring Search For Perfection explores a variety of questions, and draws inspiration from Alighieri. The Divine Comedy is this evening’s foundation, in particular, the poem’s final section-Paradise. Intertwined with Akademi’s determination to deliver engaging dance works fusing both British and South East Asian dance practices, the production makes for a meditative evening. Dancer Edward Arnold is the evening’s protagonist. Situated on the rooftop of the Southbank Centre, the tranquil tone of the evening offers a therapeutic juxtapose to London’s iconic landmarks and rush hour hustle and bustle.
Arnold, and the rest of the ensemble situate themselves inside a large white circle painted on the ground. The minimalism of the set is significant within itself, stripping back on the materialistic and placing a focus more so on the circular formation and the dancers. This circle is pivotal in influencing how the ensemble travel around and through the space, many of their actions circular and continual. This notion is beautiful, reinforcing the eternal nature of life and the struggles we find ourselves as humans facing.
Arnold’s initial and concluding sequences astound; lying on his back in the heat as he awaits the audience, his sheer effortless of musicality, strength and presence become apparent. Agudo’s choreography is a triumph, Arnold rises from the ground in a series of circular motions and integrating martial arts to build up his strength to take on the unknown, Paradise. Archita Kumar provides an angelic presence, a strong force constantly keeping Arnold focused a grounded. Kumar performs choreography with Kathak influences with grace.
Carmine De Amicis, Ellen Yilma, Francesco Migliaccio and Kamala Devam present a constant battle of seeking perfection. The ensemble often create obstacles for Arnold to face, and makes the audience question what perfection actually is. Scenes delving into sensuality, wrath and pride are stand outs, especially due to the synergy of energy from both the cast and Bernard Schimpelsberger’s all encompassing and resonant musical score. The evening is a continual tide of the tranquil and the torrential, in a sense symbolic of the ebb and flow of life. 4/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Paradiso: Man’s Enduring Search For Perfection was shown at the Southbank Centre as part of Alchemy Festival 2017 on Wednesday 24th May 2017. For more information on Akademi’s productions, visit here…