Watching Shannon Gillen + Guests perform “A Colored Image of the Sun” means being struck over and over by the human ability to achieve the sublime. The constant push and pull between beauty and terror and ecstasy and violence was apparent in every minute of the piece, which transcended the limitations implicit in the human form and became something more than human, it became universal.
The inspirations behind “A Colored Image of the Sun” range from the Hindu festival of Holi to the Rites of Spring, from the process of childbirth to the acceptance of death and the renewal and resurrection involved with all of those things. Staged in the spare white setting of the Triskelion Arts’s Aldous Theater in Williamsburg, “A Colored Image of the Sun” is danced by five women who perform with a raw emotional intensity that never gets in the way of the precision and strength of their movements. Frequently, the rigor of dance gets in the way of the ability of dancers to respond in an emotional way with one another, but that is not the case here. Each dancer has ample opportunity to perform solo, but as much as they shine individually, it is when they interact with each other that the dance is at its most compelling.
Gillen has training in theater as well as dance and perhaps this is why the dancers interact with each other in a way that is somewhat atypical in its emotional immediacy. Their emotional presence resonates with the audience, forcing you to the edge of your seat, breath held, hands clenched. And as ecstatic as the dancing is, there is also an underlying sense of unease, a sense that no matter how much beauty there is, it will all come to an end.
The paradox that we all live with is that our survival is dependent on releasing some of ourselves, thereby killing ourselves. We give of our bodies, knowing that we will die. “A Colored Image of the Sun” explores this dichotomy with a radiance that highlights the perfect destruction that is the human condition, while also celebrating all that the body can do at its prime.
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