Sulem de Oliveira da Silva performs in “On Earth I’m Done part 1: Mountains” in CULLBERG’s JOMBA! premiere (Photograph supplied)

Clinging to life as the world unravels around us in “On Earth I’m Done part 1: Mountains”

By Alexander Dale

Like Sisyphus and his infinite pushing of the boulder, van Dinther’s choreography is born out of a painful contortion of the human body as it labours in its own existential turmoil. Dancer Sulem de Oliveira da Silva moves endlessly, constantly struggling against the forces set against her, struggling against the scorching of the earth.

In the first part of a larger collection of works, On Earth I’m Done Part 1: Mountains, as choreographed by Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Swedish contemporary dance company Cullberg, we bear witness to the slow and gradual unravelling of the world. A solo piece performed by Sulema de Oliviera da Silva, the production screams in a highly stylised visual and choreographic language that disturbs the viewer with nihilistic devastation.

The production immediately grabs our attention with a vibrantly ominous lighting design, by Jonatan Winbo, that pollutes the air with an inescapable tension and anxiety of what is to come. This intensity is only heightened by the throbbing electronic score by David Kiers that not only organizes the piece’s repetitive rhythmic structure but begins the slow descent into the apocalypse.

Da Silva’s anguish is most visible in a stirring moment where she is seen to climb into herself. Unable to bear the cataclysmic and cyclic human condition, Sulema escapes into the physical. She moves ever inward, scratching, shifting and searching for an inner sense of peace.

However, the only moment of relief van Dinther’s gives us comes when Sulema slowly lifts into the air, suspended by the seemingly infinite fabric which falls upwards throughout the production. Like a baby trying to reverse the birthing process, da Silva clings to the fabric like an umbilical cord, her source of life. But time cannot be reversed. We cannot be unborn. It is the only choice we can never make.

Doomed to this seemingly inescapable calamity, da Silva crashes into the fabric. She does everything in her power to stay connected: she rages at the fabric, attempts to drown herself in it, anything to keep it from moving. But like the rolling apocalypse that is the global climate crisis, there is no certainty that things will change. There is no certainty that time will stop. There is no certainty that we can fix our mistakes.

Van Dinther asks us to look up at the sky as it crashes upon our heads, to look down at the mountain as it crumbles beneath our feet, and continue to live …because there is nothing else we can do.

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23rd annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 24 August – 5 September 2021 (digital festival)

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JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

23rd annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 24 August – 5 September 2021 (digital festival)

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