Lo impermanente: Chilean National Ballet Goes Abstract

Last week, Chilean choreographer José Vidal launched his new contemporary ballet, Lo impermanente at the Chilean National Ballet (Ballet Nacional Chileno, or BANCH). Lasting about 50 minutes, Lo impermanente (The Impermanent) fuses slow colorful progressions with rhythmic movements. Fluidity in lighting, movement and color changes create a seamless experience that engulfs the viewer. Lo impermanente’s dynamic aesthetic makes it a piece that appeals to ballet enthusiasts and newbies alike.

 Photo: Ginger Wojcik
Photo: Ginger Wojcik

The piece can be best understood in conjunction with José Vidal’s professional journey and worldview. Vidal credits his mother for helping him define his attitude towards dance from a young age. “I was always familiar with dance because my mother was a dancer,” says Vidal. After beginning his professional ballet career, Vidal was invited to dance in the United States at North Carolina’s American Dance Festival in 1996. From there he went to New York City and plunged into the world of international dancers and choreographers. “My experiences in New York City were inspiring, and I hold them close to my heart,” he recalls. “There is an immense cultural richness there, which is something that Chile is only just experiencing with increased immigration in the past 6 or 7 years.”

 Photo: Ginger Wojcik
Photo: Ginger Wojcik

After dancing in the Czech Republic, Barcelona and Brussels, Vidal came back to Chile. During his experiences abroad, he became aware of the fact that he was a “complicated, opinionated dancer.” “I realized it was much better to do choreography and develop that side,” he says. “It’s something that I really enjoy.” From there he began to choreograph larger pieces and develop his own aesthetic.

Lo impermanente comes out of Vidal’s abstract and philosophical style. “My aesthetic becomes more and more abstract. Rhythm, space, light and color interest me. The energy onstage and working with the dancers’ bodies are what inspire me.”

Dance is often called the most ephemeral of arts because—according to Vidal—it occurs at the moment you see it, then ceases to exist. His piece takes this idea as the starting point for an exploration of the impermanence of life. “Everything finishes, disappears,” he says. “We will all eventually die. This piece will hopefully help people broaden their perspective on life, to think about why we are here and what we are doing.”

 Photo: Ginger Wojcik
Photo: Ginger Wojcik

Lo impermanente was conceived by José Vidal and his creative team as “a journey from the most static to the most mobile, from the slowest to the fastest, from the most colorful to the least colorful.” The production includes original music by Maria Angélica Vial, interactive graphic design by Oscar Llanquén and lighting and costumes by Catalina Devia.

The set design ranges from atomic to universal: black-and-white squiggles resembling chromosomes float behind the dancers as they flow slowly around the stage. The designs change and grow, almost imperceptibly. Fluid light gradually intensifies to bright rays that bounce off dancers in pastel costumes while they leap into each other’s arms just long enough to lift a pointed toe to the air.

This play of light and space coupled with the dancers’ group dynamic reveal the delicate and fleeting moments of our own existence. An image soon becomes a thing of the past as the dancers move from one partner to the next, exchanging glances of excitement. The piece crescendos with a blue galactic explosion, less a resolution than an opening up into the infinity of possibilities.

The way that Vidal plays with the dancers’ movements highlights both their individualities as well as the companionship among them. One moves into an energetic solo while the rest are left roaming, stretching and gliding across the stage. At times their movements are slow, as if they were moving through honey. At other times the dancers are interwoven and connected, like waves pounding the shore.

Vidal describes this “continuous body language” as part of the post-modern dance movement in the USA. But, he says, “I am much more emotional than an American choreographer. I’m Latino.”

Lo impermanente
Ballet Nacional Chileno, BANCH
Providencia 043
Metro Baquedano
April 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27 and May, 2, 3 and 4
ticketek.cl or 29782480-81
tickets starting at CP$2,000
Thursdays: 2 for 1

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