World première: 14 February 2006
Dutch National Ballet
Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
For The Gentle Chapters Dawson created a series of short sketches or miniatures, each forming a chapter in a story shown as flashes of memory. He began by asking the questions we all asked as children: how does a bird take to the air? why does a leaf fall from a tree? what would one feel like to be a ball, dropped and bounced? His characters experience these physical, intellectual and emotional moments as dance, dreaming the thoughts into a physical reality through framework of his choreography.
Here Dawson is a futurist. The pure graphics and androgyny of the designs become even more enhanced by the haunting soundscape specially created by Thom Willems. Set against the ceiling of infinite blue skies, watching the characters come to life on the clean white pages of this virtual fiction of childhood memories of when we were naive and playful and lingered in our dreamworlds.
Dawson forms shapes and structured positions by not focusing on next sequence. Using repetitive movements, developing phrases on tilting frames, bodies winding and swirling in weighted circles, shadowed by dancers in the background. A myriad of sensory, cognitive and emotional processes stimulated by the interaction of expectations, associations and analysis. He manipulates the dancers like a child who plays with his puppet theatre, unleashing stories of successes, failures and possibilities and making the whole process of creating art about communication. We wander with him through each chapter into each new moment of his dreamworld, unveiling the story of a life, wishing to be free.
Beyond early childhood, most of us learn to keep our minds shut to the possibility that other worlds exist beyond what we accept as reality. If we studied the matter, we might discover that our modern presumptions of rationality rely entirely on second hand information, or faith in what ‘experts’ have told us. They have no more basis in ‘reality’ than a vivid dream or child’s fantasy. This is The Gentle Chapters.