DANCE Mandala Peacock Theatre
Thursday 10 April 1997
Mandala takes the form of a journey, divided into 18 stages, that circles the globe from Los Angeles to Helsinki in a beautifully shot and seamlessly produced diorama photographed by Ezralow and Mietta Corli. The stage is dominated by an M-shaped arrangement of screens and mirrors on which is projected a beguiling series of images of oceans, deserts, icebergs and flames. In a gauze box at the heart of this elemental Cook's Tour we discover Ezralow posing heroically in designer underpants. Born into the unpeopled landscape of the natural world, he then takes a crash course in Western art as kaleidoscopic images of Graeco-Roman youth with hyacinthine curls and rent-boy poses are projected around him. Soon he acquires a natty Ermenegildo Zegna suit and the encircling panorama shifts to a nightmare journey in which Ezralow is carried at breakneck speed along the Italian railway network. Positioned centre stage, his desperate, almost Chaplinesque figure is stranded at the heart of the skein of track. Trapped by the oncoming locomotive, he alternately runs to escape or perches precariously on the front of the unseen train, surfing the rails. This clever and exciting sequence was the most successful fusion of dance and film in the hour- long show.
Ezralow, a disconcertingly prolific choreographer, has an impressive track record in advertising and video promotion and has made rock videos with Sting, U2 and David Bowie. However, Mandala demonstrates that his ability to craft short bursts of creative imagery does not necessarily qualify him to entertain a theatreful of people for 60 minutes with a panorama of National Geographic wallpaper populated only by a handsome, bare-chested man in a suit.
Despite his pedigree, it is Ezralow's choreography that causes the show to fail as theatre. The sophisticated montage around him served as a sort of visual karaoke for which his body notionally provided the drama and interest. Unfortunately, Ezralow was dwarfed by his surroundings and the steps he had devised failed to live up to their dazzling context, consisting mostly of statuesque poses and flickering turns that threw his spotlit musculature into tedious relief. His chosen soundtrack is a mind-numbingly minimalist stir-fry in which Brian Eno meets Alexander Borodin - and loses. Mandala was certainly an aid to meditation. Indeed, at times the eyelids, lulled by this new-age Potters' Wheel, grew decidedly heavy. Not so much synaesthesia as anaesthesia.
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