During Water Will (In Melody) at REDCAT on September 12, 2019, Ligia Lewis took the audience into the realm of nightmarish fantasies where one felt entrapped, humored, teased and sometimes confused and uncomfortable. Was this theater, dance or performance art? The answer is yes, it was all those genres. The Brothers Grimm met Sigmund Freud and Lewis led them (and us) into a dream world yet uncharted. As much as I enjoyed much of the work, I was relieved when it ended. I was exhausted by its ceaseless edginess that never truly developed. Like a bad dream, I was glad to wake up. That said, Water Will (In Melody) is a work that stays with the viewer. It takes a while to rejoin reality.

Ligia Lewis is an international dance artist. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants Award (2018); a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for minor matter (2017);  ); funding from the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe (2017-18); and of a Prix Jardin d’ Europe from ImPulsTanz for Sorrow Swag (2015).

This was the first time that I had seen a front curtain at REDCAT. Water Will (In Melody) began with Dani Brown costumed in all white and clear plastic, moving sporadically and statically in half-light while reciting The Willful Child by the Brothers Grimm. She was very close to the members of the audience in the front row who must have been awash with her energy as I felt it much further back in the house.

Brown opened the curtain to reveal a knotted, thick rope hanging upstage and a projection announcing Part I. One by one the other characters in Lewis’ realm were introduced. Dressed in a tight black leather mini dress, her short black hair slicked back, Susanne Sachsse walked in to stand in a sensual pose facing upstage. Lewis, also dressed in black, entered moving as if it were difficult to do so, across the back.

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Titilayo Adebayo in Ligia Lewis' Water Will (In Melody) - Photo: Maria Baranova

Appearing to be a happy mime but somehow we know that this is an oracle announcing “somewhere evil this way comes” Titilayo Adebayo appears dressed in a long white shirt/dress and wearing a black bowler hat. Her gestures and facial expressions bounce between comedy and tragedy. She was indeed an omen of madness both private and universal.

As a dancer, Lewis has performed and toured extensively for artists including Ariel Efraim Ashbel, Mette Ingvartsen, Eszter Salamon, Les Ballets C de la B, among others. The European and German Expressionism influence was evident in her work, but Water Will (In Melody) did not exist within any recognizable borders. Anyone who has had dark thoughts, bad or weird dreams or who foresees the turmoil that exists throughout much of the world, probably felt uncomfortably at home.

The work was conceived and choreographed by Lewis in creation with the performers, and that unity came across. They all managed to exist within their private spaces while creating a strong sense of living in a shared world. The movement was often twisted, static, and held close to the performer while causing fantasy to clash with reality.

Part II involved a watery mist spray like those outside restaurants in Palm Springs floating down to form a slippery surface beneath these already somewhat unstable characters. Here the patterns created by Lewis became more geometric and the four performers engaged physically, piling up on top of one another at one time. The most beautiful visual came during the final moments of the work as a solitary figure slowly walked away from us into a darkening and off-kilter world, disappearing into an uncertain future.

Again, the powerful cast of Water Will (In Melody) were Titilayo Adebayo, Dani Brown, Ligia Lewis, and Susanne Sachsse. The person who brilliantly helped create this unstable world was Lighting Designer Ariel Efraim Ashbel. The costumes were designed by sowrong studio; Stage Design was by Eike Böttcher, Sound Design was by S. McKenna, and the Dramaturge was Maja Zimmermann.

Water Will (in Melody) completes Lewis’s trilogy, preceded by minor matter in red and Sorrow Swag in blue. I, for one, would be very interested in seeing the first two parts of this trilogy.

Water Will (In Melody) continues through Sunday, September 15, 2019. For more information and tickets, click here.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, September 14, 2019.

To visit Ligia Lewis’ website, click here.

Featured image: Titilayo Adebayo in Water Will (In Melody) – Photo: Maria Baranova