Moby Dick – Leviathan – James Wilton Dance

A fish’s tale..

Moby Dick, Leviathan, is choreographer James Wilton’s latest powerful piece of creative contemporary dance. Dark, intense and with more angst than a teenage Goth’s diary, this extraordinary explosion of physical energy draws you into Ahab’s obsessive quest for revenge on the white whale that bit off his leg from the knee. I saw it at Newcastle’s Dance City. Anthony Baker the Artist Director at Dance City, continues with his run of programming some fantastic dance experiences at this lovely city centre venue.
Leviathan has an unremitting masculine competitive theme, as winning becomes everything to Ahab, and this is in sharp contrast to the female dancer’s beautiful and watery sinuous movements as the whale, evoked in the version we saw by Hannah Ekholm (covering for principle Sarah Jane Taylor)

Flying fish
Much of James’ choreography borrows from Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art with its roots originating in Angola and the Congo that combines elements of dance and acrobatics. It is quick, highly energetic and complex. I have seen it performed in Brazil where it was said to have been used by the slaves in the sugar plantations as a kind of self expression and communication, which their overseers couldn’t understand. It is generally the province of very young, very fit men. I fell in love with Capoeira that night in Salvador, so to see it adapted in this ingenious way to tell such a tale, was a real treat for me.
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is a huge story, a detailed and obsessive tribute to the sea and man’s battle with nature. James’ piece echoes this throughout, showing epic struggles with the whale being captured and then escaping. Ropes criss-cross the stage and are pulled back and forth, forming into new elements of control, barriers and nets.


The capture

James has established a company with a reputation for daring, energetic pieces, blending athleticism with contemporary dance, but I had not seen anything of his before.
Melville’s novel of Moby Dick, illustrates a struggle not only against the odds, but against all sound judgement. A story of obsession beyond reason, it is this conflict that becomes the focus of Leviathan.
Six incredible performers, bring this rather grim tale to life. Ahab is in conflict with his crew, with nature, with the whale, and with himself.

Ahab’s agony

I was fascinated with the sheer amount of Capoeira incorporated into this piece as it is an incredibly exhausting and energetic form of movement which normally takes place only in short bursts. The dancers just went on and on spinning, sparring, wrestling and flying trough the air with apparent ease.

The fall

At the after show talk, one of the dancers said that every day of rehearsal was like a day of athletics training, and I can well believe it. James is a self confessed perfectionist and this is evident throughout Leviathan, I think particularly, in the portrayal of the whale. When all the dancers in white form together to make the huge shape of the living creature, it comes alive before your eyes. I would have liked to see more ensemble movement in the show actually, as this has the greatest visual impact.

Capoeira moves

The music, James affirms was essential to the creation of Leviathan, and all the pieces are by Mariusz Duda, vocalist and bassist of Polish progressive rock band Lunatic Soul. All pretty cool stuff.
In a world where producing something original becomes increasingly difficult to do, this dazzlingly talented dancer (he plays Ahab himself) and choreographer has done just that.
Check out the website to see where the big fish will surface next James Wilton Dance

Be careful what you fish for