New moon rising

Beauty meets distortion in Gaile Petursson-Hiley’s Eclipse

Movement has never looked so fiercely intricate as it does in Gaile Petursson-Hiley’s new dance project Eclipse.     

The full-length creation features the artistic talent of lighting director Robert Mravnik as well as six prodigious dancers from Drive Dance, a company founded by Petrusson-Hiley’s daughter Kathleen Hiley. 

Within the constraints of a small stage, choreographer Petursson-Hiley presents a beautiful example of transformation incorporating elements of astrology, nature and mythic goddesses inspired by the fantasy paintings of Susan Seddon Boulet.

The piece is presented by Mouvement Winnipeg Dance Projects and opens up with a gentle woodland goddess, whose white dress envelops most of the stage, moving intricately as her body transforms into an array of savage creatures that sweep up from under her. 

The dance propels quickly from eloquently beautiful to energized, providing audiences with a creatively crafted and raw interpretation of all that is wild and ominous in the natural world itself.

“The choreography has a lot of changes to it, so you’re not just watching one level. Rather, it’s a journey that takes you on different levels. It can be very quiet and emotional but also very hard-edged,” Petursson-Hiley says.

Through its poetic connections to nature and spirit, the piece embodies what it means to transform from human into creature and the lost sense of time and perception that takes place during that change. 

Much like the transformation during a lunar eclipse where only a fraction of the moon’s surface becomes visible while the darkest fraction is hidden by the Earth’s shadow, the darkest parts of human characteristics become visible as ferocity replaces docility in the name of primal instinct.

“It’s not a story, it’s really images about the creature within all of us and it’s kind of like being pulled from animal to creature to human. This kind of pulling that happens is what opened up the whole piece for me,” Petursson-Hiley says.

Dancer Kathleen Hiley, who is also an award winning University of Winnipeg graduate, has worked with her mother on many projects before and believes this is a piece that will captivate all audiences.

“I think that there is something in it for everyone, even if you’re not a lover of dance and you don’t go see it often. There is a strong theatrical sense, as well as athleticism and beauty, so I think all sorts of people would really like it,” Hiley says.

After a full year of production and choreography, Petursson-Hiley is excited to showcase her team’s hard work, for she believes that much of what we think and how we feel is based on insights and associations generated from what we see.

“For 72 minutes of your life, it’s a really good way to inspire yourself. To take that risk is really important in your life. Just dive in and trust that you don’t need to worry about, ‘Do I understand it?’ You just need to be able to feel it and see,” Petursson-Hiley says.

Published in Volume 70, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 17, 2015)

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