Yaron Lifschitz has outdone himself with the 2016 production of Il Ritorno, a fusion of Montiverde’s Il Ritorno D’Ulisse with Circa’s own brand of genre-defying acrobatic dance. Dramatic and intense, Il Ritorno tells the story of Ulysses’ return via songs from the original Italian opera (strongly performed by a pitch-perfect four singer ensemble, pianist and extraordinary cellist) and the accompanying acrobatics of an eleven piece circus crew. The drab colour palette and stripped black stage provide a blank canvas, permitting the performers to paint the story freely via their movement.
Dancers twist, choke, pull, jump, grab and throw one another across the stage in explosions of violence. Sudden drops and painful contortions elicit gasps from the crowd, while feats of astonishing strength draw stunned applause. Female performers are used almost as often as the men as bases for balancing poses. Nothing is predictable, and anything is possible. The music carries the audience between the original Italian opera and the masterful modern compositions of Quincy Grant with barely a ripple; the two jar, but seem to fit. Visually, the balance and counter-balance, push and pull, violence and beauty of the acrobats echo that interdependent dissonance.
Grotesque and beautiful, the dancers grapple with unseen forces, pushing the limits of their physicality right to the edge. Of particular note were the female performers on a variety of suspended apparatus (sans harness or safety nets) who, once freed from the looming violence of the men, were able to perform with uninterrupted grace. The tale of loss, longing, love and hardship is etched on every face on the stage, carved in every contortion, sung in every note. One need not be familiar with the intimate details of the story in order to gain the maximum amount of enjoyment from the performance.
Mostly brilliant — if at times abstract and uncomfortable to watch — Il Ritorno is an evocative, provocative, sophisticated piece that once seen and heard, would not be soon forgotten.
One more show remains on 27 August. Visit The Arts Centre Gold Coast for tickets.