Review: Chrysalis by Taragano Theatre at the Etcetera

By Carmel Shortall

Choreographer and dancer Mariana Taragano has created something wonderful in Chrysalis, a sumptuous piece combining dance, music and physical theatre to explore a woman’s path through life from birth (or before it) till she reaches a point where, in full possession of her femininity, she can choose to reject the roles set out for her.

Centre stage is a bench behind which huddles a heap of red cloth. Natalie Rozario enters, sits and removes her cello from its case in elaborate dumbshow. Monica Taragano, playing her flute, enters dressed as a man. They flirt and play their respective instruments culminating in a passionate and climactic piece, at the end of which they have clearly made Mariana, who now stirs beneath her red sheet.

Awakening, she moves tentatively at first – face down, spreading herself cruciform on the stage until, still anchored to the ground, she furls and unfurls her legs seemingly surprised to find feet and toes at the end of them. She tries to walk and falls. Just as she gains the freedom of movement the other two enter and set about ‘teaching’ her as they play their instruments and she resists by holding the sheet music upside down, throwing it away and eventually eating it.

Lena Horne’s The Man I Love signals a change as Mariana moves into puberty and young womanhood. Her violent and jerky motions are accompanied by discordant music: staccato notes on the flute and plucking and twanging on the cello. Her red sheet is now a slinky red dress and as she dances she is joined onstage by Tunde Olasupo. They do not dance together at first but at cross purposes, retreating and drawing closer again until they form a duet.

They dance, they arrange the musicians on the stage, they sleep and dance again. Then they dance less together and when they do there is friction, fighting and arguing. Eventually he pushes her away and storms off. Once again she huddles under her red cloth, head on arm until after a time she begins to stir, anchored to the ground as in her first ‘newborn’ dance. She examines and admires her legs, gets up and walks as if rediscovering herself and her body.

She dances alone until the stage goes dark.       

Mariana Taragano’s choreography brings together all the elements necessary for success. The piece is perfectly executed – the dancers support each other and fit well together. Movements are elegant and sinuous – Mariana exhibits strength and vulnerability while Tunde Olasupo is effortlessly controlled. Bringing the musicians onstage succeeds in creating a more interactive and less sterile form of physical theatre while the design is visually striking and uses a simple colour palette imaginatively.   

Chrysalis has now finished its short run at the Etcetera Theatre but details of future events from Taragano Theatre can be found on their website.

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