VENUE: Church Hill Theatre, August 11-13
By JEAN WEST
WHEN it came to his fascination with aviation, Leonardo da Vinci – not just a painter, but a mathematician, scientist, anatomist and sculptor to boot – was something of a stickler for detail.
He would make involved drawings of the physiology of airborne creatures like bats and birds and obsess about kites, and how to animate them to help man reach for the skies.
Hundreds of diagrams helped him launch one of his famed inventions, the ornithopter, a flying machine, designed to be powered by man, but destined for the ground, until gliding, pedalled machines and, eventually, the Wright brothers, mobilised the first aeroplanes.
The same attention to minutiae might be ascribed to Argentinian choreographer, Enrique Cabrera, who leads the Madrid-based company Aracaladanza through this sumptuous, elegant homage to the Italian Renaissance artist and his obsession with flight.
Hot-on-the-heels of an exciting trilogy for children aged 5+, on the legendary works of Hieronymous Bosch, Renee Magritte and Joan Miro, this richly textured, inventive race through Da Vinci’s portfolio, unites projected animation with visceral movement, paradoxical, in its simplicity and daring.
A paint box of staggering colours; bold red and blue, swathing gowns and capes, contrast with other sepia tinted set and costumes, and wildly experimental choreography, that is fresh and light and nothing short of mesmeric.
In 50 minutes of pure magic, the inspirational cast get to grips with complicated digital wizardry and puppetry, sprouting wings, taming wind-up birds, and transforming into elegant horses, the other beast Da Vinci so revered.
Aracaladanza have been translating enchanting tales for children for some 22 years. But embracing new technology has fetched something wonderful to their repertoire. Timing is absolutely of the essence, and their delivery is deft and spot on: not a foot, or other limb for that matter, strays out of step.
This is vital, given the potential for accident with their elaborate, strapped-on wings, poles, kitchen utensils, and, surreally, bowls of chalk, that evoke the natural world and feast of life, just like Da Vinci’s etchings.
A big dinner, I’m guessing celebrating the Last Supper, is both opulent and gorgeous to the eye. We dine along with the players at this inviting feast, chock-full of wonderful comedy, game-playing, and joy.
The audience were drunk with the sheer spectacle as each set built on the previous with more creative glee.
Detailed planning of the show by Cabrera and the artistic team begins at least 10 months ahead of performance. He says it is impossible to conceive the choreography without immersing himself in the technicalities of visual effects, prop and costume. The dance blossoms from there-on-in.
On the afternoon I watched, everything was just right – smooth and clean; a charming score by Luis Miguel Cobo, video design by Avaro Luna, and inventive props and machinery from Ricardo Vergne collided to perfection.
Da Vinci apparently wrote: “Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will long to return.”
After seeing this fantastical interpretation, the same might be said of Vuelos; where hopes, ambition and imagination are as big as you can conjure.
This show is a work of art, a brush stroke of dream-like wonder as pioneering and brave as it gets.