In the lowest of low lights, a figure appears, embedded in the bustling sound. It is an embodied curve, flowing with tensile strength. The curve, a dancer, remains rooted center, feet grounded as the torso traces swirling pathways. Nacera Belaza has somehow captured the sound of nostalgia. It sounds like sunset, memory, children playing; like community, home, elders singing.
The hypnotic composition of both sound and movement induces a flow state, both onstage and in the audience. You remain there, together, for 50 minutes.
The soloist becomes a trio, then a quartet, each formation exploring the bounds of this round movement, which seems to swell up from the ground and find nuance in the body. Dancers Paulin Banc, Mohammed Ech Charquaouy, and Océane Valence join Belaza. The wave lives differently in each of their bodies but takes on a symphonic essence as the shapes stagger and synchronize. It’s an extremely satisfying counterpoint for the viewer, a minimal concept that is overflowing with information.
A brief flash of blank, lit stage — Belaza also designed lighting herself — cleanses your palette, resets your eye. The movement resumes in the dark. In a blackout, the quartet moves from their open formation into a small, close unit. They become blurs of energy, blooming as they touch the very edges of their reach.
There is so much beauty in the prolonged research of this concept, the patience to rest in the prompt and explore its corners. The longer you watch, the more you uncover, experiencing both your own projections on the work and the specificity of the dancers’ execution. Physically, their task takes a very careful balance of activation and release, of curve and line, of rib and spine, of head and neck. To truly take in the way each body absorbs the wave is a thoughtful, deep meditation.
Near the end, the curve turns into a spin, each figure simultaneously spinning and walking the circumference of their spotlight. A featured solo spin by the tallest dancer breaks into the stage for a moment, achieving a breathtaking pace.
I don’t know that I can describe the evening’s meaning or its impact better than the program notes, which are simple and clear, all while saying so much. But I can say that the time spent immersed in The Wave was profound and well worth it — a unique rumination that can only be understood by experiencing it yourself.
To learn more about Campagnie Nacera Belaza, please visit their website.
To learn more about the 2023/2024 season at REDCAT, please visit their website.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Members of Compagnie Nacera Belaza in L’Onde by Nacera Belaza – Photo by Angel Origgi