Nightdance

Recently landed: Nightdance, Gracia's written response to Melanie Lane’s new work, for Fjord Review

In Edward Hopper’s painting, Night Windows (1928), a woman in her illuminated apartment goes about her private affairs unaware of my gaze. A voyeuristic composition, Hopper has made me a ‘peeping tom’ whether I wish to be or not — to view the work is to peep. Is she, too, postponing the tasks of her tomorrow? The emphasis here is not upon Tennessee Williams’ “kindness of strangers,” but rather their loneliness, a shared loneliness, one shadowed by intimacy. In a pink slip, she is bent over, spot lit against the black of night as I, the viewer, lean nonchalantly against a lamppost. And in Melanie Lane’s new choreographic work, Nightdance, she is Lilian Steiner in flesh-coloured pants rendered golden goddess by lamplight. One thing is certain: night is made of shadows and in said shadows one can lurk. The cover of darkness, the ability to conceal, magic made not by sleight of hand but by the shift change between the sun and the moon. You can watch and not be seen.

From folklore’s werewolves to the Porto Rican coarse-haired Chupacabra (“goat sucker”), come the full moon, come the descent of night, all creatures come out to play and give rise to night terrors and thrills. Ghouls and golems not detectable during the day are made manifest by night. From the margins of medieval manuscripts come men with dogs’ heads, the Cynocephali, to tap at your windowpane. As Steiner, Gregory Lorenzutti, and Lane prowl on all fours across the darkened stage, such are my thoughts. In dog pose, their collective gait is stiff (humans do not have the supple spine of canines, no matter how fit) and otherworldly. Beguiling too. Nightdance reveals this awkward-easy transition into another world distinct from day to be liberating and emboldening. Come the night, you can reinvent yourself. You can release your alter ego. You can strut. You can prowl. You can shimmy. You can seek to entrance. You can even become your own kind of werewolf. Or muscled were-mouse, as Lorenzutti, shows. You can watch and be seen.

Lilian Steiner in Melanie Lane's Nightdance (image credit: Bryony Jackson)