HOUSE AFLAME: HOUSE OF NAMES
Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Part art film, part modern ballet for the stage, Marika Brussel’s House of Names slides adeptly in and out of genres, synergizing film, dance theatre, and a haunting original score from Carla Lucero, in this gorgeously lit and costumed production. Brussel’s talented dance artists mesmerise us with emotionally charged renditions of her powerful and nuanced choreography. We inhale the full range of human emotion through these modernized versions of ancient tales that ultimately re-vision and re-empower female mythology—
if Cassandra survives the #metoo era, (Sasha Gologorskaya dancing up a storm, reclaiming lost parts of her character’s psyche with honed grace), and if Lot’s wife is allowed to look back and integrate her past as she immigrates from her homeland (Jenna Marie’s every gorgeously articulated movement taut with emotional intensity through her character’s diasporic journey), then surely we can reimagine any wretchedly-wrought historical heroine and set her story free? Brussel has scythed a wide path through the weeds of ancient female oppression, and as audience we willingly follow her into a bright re-storied light.
The eyes of Brussel and her cinematographer and editor, Peter T. Ruocco, are beautifully compatible, creating a unified vision—film always telling the same tale as the dance. The camera works seamlessly with Brussel’s lyrical, moody choreography, drawing us from the fluid intimacy of close-ups to the detached dispassion of a spectator. We are even offered a rare dancer’s point of view in La Llorna’s section, when she is buried beneath the calamity of her post-partum “thoughts” (as Katerina Beckman, Vinnie Jones and Tess Lane dance a frantic piggy-in-the-middle over her head)—for a moment we shift out of Alysia Chang’s deliriously tender embodiment of La Llorna, and watch the dance as if it is happening above us.
The performance is mostly confined to the three theatrical walls, but in addition to point of view shifts, we glimpse the internal world of the characters through filmic prologues from other places in time—the bedrooms and gardens of the characters as children. And finally, we’re invited to step through the fourth wall into the near-empty audience (pandemic reference acutely felt) where Miriam waits alone, ready to dance as leader and prophetess. Erica Felsch shines in the gilded glory of this choreographic triumph, and it’s not just the lighting or her ample dance-gift—the choreography gives her the room to rise into the metaphorical light, fusing the individual women and their stories into one collective and healed story of Woman.
Also most worthy of mention, Calvin Thomas and Ismael Acosta (Lot and Apollo), offering excellently rendered modern versions of these traditional characters—Thomas’s partnering feels like earth to Marie’s fluid anguish, his withholding almost heartbreaking, while Acosta dances with the passion of a god. Every dancer in House of Names has been gifted with Brussel’s astute and emotionally intelligent choreography, and has danced it to perfection. This is an evening not to be missed!
House of Names premieres July 24 at 6pm PST, with a matinee on July 25 at 2pm PST
Photography: Marina Eybelman