Festival Dance Chapter 3: the brutal journey of the heart

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

The course of true love doesn’t run smooth here: it jitters, judders, prances and bends every which way but there’s no sign that the ‘brutal journey’ has any happy ending. That would, of course, be a cliché - and L-E-V’s artistic directors/choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar go all out to body-swerve anything that’s pat or obvious.

In 2018, the company brought OCD Love and Love Chapter 2 to the Edinburgh Festival. As the dancers wrenched and shimmied to the insistent beats of Ori Lichtik’s bravura soundscore their shape-shifting bodies ensured we saw that love hurts - even felt the pain.

Now Chapter 3 arrives on-stage, its extended title - ‘the brutal journey of the heart’ - echoing those earlier excursions into unrequited longings, brief encounters with seductive joys, and brusque separations.

Like addicts, however, L-E-V’s dancers are drawn back into the search for love - seven of them, which means some-one will be left without a partner…

Actually, there is very little togetherness in Chapter 3. Even when closely clustered in a group, at some points close enough to hold hands in a human chain, the dancers seem intrinsically alone.

Occasional solos display a fierce resilience, a driven need to survive - start over, fail, try again.As Lichtik’s collage of moods and music ranges through modern blues, country, folk, Latin and Afrobeats, the movement also travels through ‘zones’ of physicality. Sometimes everyone is on demi-pointe, strutting in militaristic manoeuvres, or - with equal in-sync precision - delivering sinuous hip-swaying undulations that are emphasised by the embroidered bodyskins designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri (Christian Dior Couture).

On it, a huge red jewelled heart glitters - is it unbreakable? Darkness falls. After almost an hour of blisteringly intense, non-stop movement, a lone figure continues her journey… Yet again L-E-V’s unstinting dancers have eclipsed superlatives.