Dance Preview: THE GREAT TAMER (Dimitris Papaioannou at Royce Hall, UCLA)

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by Eve Meadows on December 27, 2018

in Dance,Theater-Los Angeles


Dimitris Papaioannou, who uses the human body to create vignettes brimming with humor, horror, circus-like stunts and optical illusions, has conceived, visualized, and directed The Great Tamer, a visually stunning and surreal pageant that grapples with the meaning of life, the mystery of death, time, destruction and reconstruction. This surrealistic and beautiful work is currently on a worldwide tour, and there are only two stops in the U.S: Ann Arbor and also here in Los Angeles, where the U.S. premiere takes place at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Friday January 11 at 8pm.

While The Great Tamer is considered a dance event, Papaioannou cannot be pigeonholed as a choreographer: Trained as a painter, he’s a performer and director who creates movement, film, circus, theater, and visual art. Known for creating the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Papaioannou is the rare artist who moves between, and mashes up, these mediums with set and costume design and imaginative staging to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which are food for both heart and mind.

The Great Tamer takes excavations and archaeology as its starting point. This performance contains numerous allusions to films, paintings and statues, with a common thread being the recreation of bodies with multiple performers at the same time. Bodies fall apart and are put back together again. Five dancers and five equally fantastic moving actors will dumbfound you as they seamlessly join to look into the deepest and darkest parts of the human soul.

Moving within the framework of innovative choreography and stunning optical illusions, performers pause in tableaux recalling sculptures and paintings of great masters such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Michelangelo’s David and Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt. In these scenes, familiarity collides with the unknown and unexplored allowing viewers to wrestle with thoughts and emotions evoked by the piece. Nudity is used to punctuate moments of gravity and absurdity, helping to evoke the full spectrum of life.

Sans dialogue, it’s an evening of visual surprises, a piece of theater that grabs the attention and doesn’t let go. It’s part dream, part nightmare, part riddle, with a lot of room left for the audience to make their own associations and meaning, which adds to the mystery and allure.

photos by Julian Mommert (click on photo for larger version)

The Great Tamer
Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA
Royce Hall, 340 Royce Dr
plays January 11, 2019
for tickets ($29–$79), call 310.825.2101 or visit CAP UCLA

for more info, visit Dimitris Papaioannou

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