Who believes in fate anymore? There’s really no room for such a fanciful notion in this enlightened day and age, but it was a concept the ancient Greeks set a lot of store by. In DISH Dance Collective’s The Spinner, choreographer Aoife McAtamney takes the Greek legend of the three Fates, or Morai, and turns it on its head to present a commentary on ideas of mortality and free will.
In the original tale from Greek mythology, the Fates dictated the lifespans of mortals through the medium of sewing, spinning the threads of each human life and cutting them at the moment of death. In The Spinner, the Fates themselves are subject to the whims of some power outside their control, executing their various roles in what looks like anguish.
It’s an interesting inversion of the story, undermining the notion that there is an independent force somewhere steering this ship. The sure-footed performers at the centre of the piece (McAtamney herself with Anna Kaszuba and Juan Corres Benito) seem to be the manipulated, rather than the grand manipulators. Torsos are pulled off-kilter by invisible strings, hinged limbs jerk every which way and the general impression is one of involuntary action. At one point, the dancers fling themselves about on the floor as though prompted by electrodes, limbs smacking resoundingly against the stage with wince-inducing violence.
A gold-hued Tom Lane (he is clothed in a loincloth and gold spraypaint) provides live accompaniment on viola, the sometimes creaking, sometimes soaring twanging of the instrument wonderfully evoking the image of taut threads while building tension.
The three dancers alternate between performing as one bubbling, harmonious unit, and separately in jagged discord. These collective interludes, textured by unison changes in tempo, are beautifully paced, the dancers winding sinuously around one another with compressed movements, or expanding outwards with rounded limbs in gravity-less slow motion.
Often, the movement is eerily unearthly; Corres Benito stalks about the stage like a faun, whilst McAtamney spins like a top recalling a sewing machine spool. This otherworldly atmosphere is maintained throughout, until the close of the piece when the dancers suddenly emerge from their supernatural chrysalises and stand plainly as though really human, seeming for the first time capable of free action. The fates, who are supposed to dictate the destiny of mortals, are shown to be trammelled by their godly roles, whilst us mortals are in fact trammelled by the burden of free will.
The final scene is a stroke of genius, re-introducing a moment from the beginning of the piece where the three performers crowd around something invisible on the ground, crouching to draw whatever it is out. The lights go down on this tableau, dangling the prospect of eternal return before the audience.
The Spinner is rich with the possibility of multiple interpretations, which is what makes it so compelling. This, along with innovative choreography, completely engaged performances from the three dancers and Lane’s eerie score, make for a wonderfully unsettling experience. I’d say McAtamney and DISH Dance Collective are fated for greatness, if I believed in that sort of thing...
Rachel Donnelly is a Dublin-based freelance writer and editor