Rob Heaslip Dance – ENDLING (3 stars)

Rob Heaslip Dance – ENDLING

Dark meditation on ritual farewells

Drawing on Gaelic songs and a familiar movement vocabulary that evokes both balletic fluency and contemporary dance's more grounded energy, Rob Heaslip's ENDLING explores death through a measured performance that has the dark atmosphere of an alien ritual. From extended chanting to oblique choreography that is at times sinister and brooding, Heaslip's production suggests death as a process that can be accommodated by human mourning, while hinting at deeper, and bleaker, mysteries beyond.

Much of the performance's atmosphere is conjured by Alison Brown's sparse yet symbolic design: tables and chairs become haunting presences under Rob Moloney's moody lighting, and the dancers and singers rotate and twist around the set. There's a sense that the dancers embody the grief of the mourners, and the austere scenography blends with the suggestive movement to portray an unsettling and bleak reflection on mortality.

While the episodic – and ultimately circular – structure relies on a series of eloquent and striking images, the final third of the production drags and the clash between the recorded soundtrack and the live singing undermines the latter's simple power: a sudden burst of energetic bouncing doesn't so much add another element of grief than interrupt the macabre sense of alienation. Yet ENDLING is an allusive and cerebral commentary on how death can be transformed from anguish to elegance.

Reviewed at Tramway, Glasgow.

Rob Heaslip Dance: Endling

Rob Heaslip reimagines mourning rituals through dance, music and design.

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