By Deena Lilygren for LEO Weekly
February 27, 2019
Only two productions remain in the Louisville Ballet’s “Season of Romance,” and one kicks off tomorrow: “Human Abstract,” which Choreographer and Director Lucas Jervies calls an “abstract tragedy.” It is an evolution or “re-examination” of the show he brought to Louisville in 2010 and 2017. The themes are the same: love, loneliness, isolation and connection and abandonment and heartbreak. “Human Abstract” uses an interdisciplinary approach to the arts, which Jervies said is a natural progression for a director — to admire elements from other disciplines and think: Why couldn’t I have something like that in my show?
This curiosity-driven approach gives the audience a contemporary dance theater piece with multimedia elements and a strong ballet backbone.
The movement vocabulary of this show is, at times, animalistic. There are moments when you can’t tell whether the dancers are seducing or rejecting one another; being passionate or violent; accepting an action; embracing a lover or smothering them to death. Jervies told LEO the opening scene of the dinner party is inspired by real-life family dinners, where, “people’s inner animal comes out.” He was speaking about family behavior in general, but specifically about being gay at a family table where homophobic “jokes” are made, ribbing goes a little too far, and you can’t voice your discomfort because then you’re “creating drama.”
According to Jervies, that scene is an exploration of shame that leads to the protagonist leaving that chaos behind and taking the audience to the next scene, a sort of pastoral, harmonic paradise reminiscent of Eden. Here, the characters come to life, seeming to emerge from the ground — naked and barefoot — and in a joyous and playful cypher, they alternatively strut, leap and pose as they express their personalities and pair with other characters as a way of testing compatibility — sometimes successful, sometimes not. This lively scene has the dancers voguing, experimenting and creating beautiful mandala shapes. Here, director Jervies’ philosophy of dancers finding the psychology of the character through movement, rather than a script, comes through.
Of course, things can’t remain peaceful forever — the dancers compete and fail and pair off and face rejection, which leads to the charming pantomime scene, “Brother.”