What an unforgettable night at BAM was had by all this past Saturday. The audience gave a long-standing ovation for the extraordinary piece of work genius Dimitris Papaioannou created with an impeccable cast of dancers for Transverse Orientation. A tour de force of spellbinding visual physical montages. It was a Salvador Dali painting that came to life. A brilliant surreal puzzle, it seemed, since everything on the stage became a throng of other things turning inside out and upside down, not easily fitting together, but not meant to be. It is appropriate that the director is also a painter, as it seemed each vignette was just that, a moving art installation instilled with the complicated spirit of man. With every moment, the unexpected succeeded in the next starling transformation. This very unique piece of work was all things in one. it lent itself to more than dance, fluidly transitioning between theater, mime, comedy, acrobatics, and even singular magic. Poignant at moments, otherworldly sometimes. From a single white door implanted in a white wall, creatures emerge whose black balloon heads atop black-suited bodies enter in a kooky flickering hibbity jibbity of excitement. No other way to explain it as they comically dart around the stage, bouncing off walls and trying to achieve their impossible objectives with a single iridescent light.
As they disappear, a bull arrives. The bull, symbolizing fertility, gives birth to a woman while a man lies beneath, and they have enfolded each other. The huge puppet bull is the central character during many scenes of the piece and plays off an assortment of moments…man against nature, man being part of nature, and man and bull are one. Vivaldi plays poignantly while the bull groans and the electric light crackles.
A woman becomes a fountain, an old lady becomes young, and a baby is born from oozing beige clay-like liquid. A man gets his testicles torn off. Aside from the visual dexterity and vividly imaginative triumph of the work, the soul of Papaioannu and his cortege of characters are elegantly ever-present. A single naked woman among seven naked men represents sex, sexuality, motherhood, and nourishment: a fountain of rejuvenation; she later disappears into a pool of water reflecting off the white wall. I’d like to believe that all the men in the Transverse Orientation are representatives of the many parts of its creator, and the woman, well, maybe she is a source of beauty and inspiration.