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Yumino Seki performing The Spirit in the Dust. Photograph by Mark French

The Spirit in the Dust: reviewed

HOT’s Erica Smith and Nick Weekes experienced the combination of Afrit Nebula’s sound, Yumino Seki’s butoh dance and Mark French’s innovative projections at Kino Teatr.

“Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” – Albert Einstein

In this town which is so rich with creatives, it can be too easy to take the wealth of opportunities for granted – or even to choose to stay at home because it is too hard to decide which event to attend on a Friday night. But The Spirit in the Dust performance, marking the last weekend of Coastal Currents, was an event on both of our must-see lists.

It is a privilege to witness a one-off collaborative performance in an intimate venue. Last Friday’s performance made me think of what it might be like if Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire from 1916 was re-born in 21st century St Leonards.

Not really knowing what to expect, we were confronted by a large muslin sheet suspended like an acrobat’s silk rope from the ceiling of the theatre. The band were positioned far to the left and the sheet opened out on the floor and trailed off a few metres to the rear.

The band struck up and played for half an hour with a few selections from their releases and some improvisation. Just a silhouette of Ken Edwards’ fingers on the bass could be made out on the cinema screen. As well as drum and percussion, Yair Katz played all sorts of instruments – including a guitar and singing. Elaine Edwards deftly switched from keyboard to reeds and background sounds.

After a short interval, Mark French untied the silk rope so the fine mesh fabric became an additional screen between the audience and the cinema screen. The lights dimmed again for the dance piece and the band began building sounds into an abstract jam. Yumino Seki began the dance wrapped in the muslin like a spider’s nest full of eggs. An electrical drone accompanied her slow emergence from the tightly curled ball. Projections of watery patterns and the flickering specks like the TV off-station snow effect coated the sheet in a shimmering texture as Seki responded to the illuminated womb-like container which enclosed her.

Yumino Seki performing The Spirit in the Dust. Photograph by Mark French

The effect was an awe inspiring hypnotic moving sculpture in light and diaphonous material. The dancer told powerful stories with her expressions and movements, dragging the sheet around and re-modelling it constantly.

‘Afrit Nebula’ means ‘the spirit of the dust’ and this phrase was the starting point for the collaboration. It was Mark French’s inspiration to use a mesh as the interface between the audience and the dancer – not only did it provide an ever-changing surface for his lighting and projections, but it gave Yumino Seki the opportunity to explore her relationship with the flexible but restraining boundary. The performance created metaphors of the evolution of life – but also of the journey of Artificial Intelligence, interacting with the digital screen and fighting to emerge from the web.

As the piece developed, the colours and movements of the projections became more vivid and built to a powerful climax with the band going full tilt into a dissonant apocalypse. It’s hard to describe the intensity of this moment, almost like a dangerous runaway reactor. All was expertly brought under control as the piece transitioned to a peaceful conclusion.

A wild, experimental and exciting event!

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Posted 19:58 Sunday, Oct 8, 2023 In: Performance

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