Choreographer: EDIFICE Dance Company
Salomé, about the death of John the Baptist, is not a particularly simple story, so for a contemporary dance company to take it on is quite a feat. This version by EDIFICE Dance Company is based on Oscar Wilde’s play of 1891, and Audrey Beardsley’s decadent illustrations for a later edition can currently be seen at the Tate Britain.
King Herod (Fabio Dolce) is hosting a drunken, debauched banquet and calls upon his step-daughter Salomé (Harriet Waghorn) to dance for his guests. She refuses and instead wonders off, coming upon the prison cell of the holy man, Jokanaan (Carmine de Amicis). Immediately and completely infatuated, Salomé tries to seduce him but, failing to do so, she returns to her step-father’s party, seeking revenge.
The nuances of this story would be hard to unpack even without the added challenge of expressing them purely through music and dance. But the company does well to convey the hedonism and sensuality of the story and its characters, beginning with an orgy of writhing bodies, all arms and legs, conducted by a flamboyant, slippery Herod.
The production is stripped back, with just a slanted platform ( designed by Joseph Bisat Marshall) serving as bed, bargaining table and prison, and costumes (Nathalie David) are mostly either flesh-coloured, or black with gleams of gold. Whilst this elegant simplicity showcases the power and passion of the Latin-contemporary dancing itself, there are few aids for an uninformed audience to have some notion of who is who and what is happening. That being said, the advantage of watching something like this online is that you can always pause briefly and have a quick google, so perhaps it’s not such a problem.
In the biblical telling, Salomé is often told as a warning against female seduction (and dancing bizarrely), but in this telling, Salomé’s sexuality is power. It plays as both temptation and a sign of strength, and Waghorn is particularly adept at communicating that, a sense of rebellion and resistance in her movements.
While the particular details of the story might be lost, the spirit is potent in EDIFICE’s one-hour, and for a company so new (formed in 2016) it’s an incredibly ambitious and fearless undertaking.
Available here until 4 September 2020