In Four Quartets, Deborah Dunn—famed across Canada for her prose-inspired dance pieces—brings a stylish new energy to T.S. Eliot’s brooding poetry of the same name.
Designed as a temporal study of the human condition, this piece is ultimately a story of contrast. Eliot’s opus—and, by extension, Dunn’s brave choreography—dabbles in beginnings and endings, in stillness and movement and in spirituality versus the impact of earth’s most physical elements.
In short, there’s a lot going on.
Add to these themes a layer of metered language in voiceover interfacing with movement and the audience is asked to tackle a lot in 60 minutes. Even with a sparse set free of distraction, it took much of the first quarter to settle into the consuming pace of synchronized listening and watching.
But Dunn’s strength as a dancer—in both precision and in potency itself—is as impressive as it is enduring. There’s a moment in the first poem where a wash of red light isolates every muscle in Dunn’s naked back—an image of vulnerability, perhaps, but also a testament to the physical possibilities of the human body despite Eliot’s view that “humankind cannot bear very much of reality.”
The moments when Dunn’s choreography becomes a literal picture of Eliot’s language are the only soft spots in an otherwise clever mash-up of form and function. Delivered with wit and decisive grace, Dunn’s quartets are an elegant contribution to the UnoFest lineup.
— Melanie Tromp Hoover