Nicola Marae Allain’s “Immanence: Privileged Instants in Space-Time” was shrouded in mystery. So obscured was its core that it was hard to get a handle on this ritualistic dance.
Based on Tahitian myth, the piece, as seen Saturday evening at the National Museum of Dance, was meant to transport its audience into the prehistoric void — before time and space existed. The idea was for the audience to suspend reality so Allain and her eight female dancers could guide viewers through the tale of creation.
With so few, if any, having any reference points in Tahitian culture, the piece was, at times, unfathomable. But so much of it was beautiful, especially the feathered and grass-skirt costumes, that audiences willing to tumble into its realm, were likely pleased — yet only to a point.
The main problem was that not all the dancers were ready for prime time. Some were actually past their prime. Thus, it was hard to fully release the imagination when some of the dancers looked like they were either unsure or unable.
That said, there was much to praise about Allain’s piece, one of many events offered during SaratogaArtsFest. The audience sat in a circle, enhancing the sense that we were all connected. The piece began with a digital image of the stars projected on the ceiling. This was a clever and appropriate use of space as it furthered the audience’s sympathy to early humans who sought answers in the sky.
Within the stars emerged a lovely female avatar who peered down. She questioned, “Am I now, am I after, or am I still becoming?” She disappeared, and a flock of grass-skirted dancers, with their feet stamping gently on the ground, whisked a cloaked figure into the circle. Faith Palma emerged, reached out and ran off.
In the second section, “Space,” the dance really took shape in the body of the choreographer herself. Allain, dressed in a stunning, black and white feathered headdress, revealed the richness inherent in the dance of the South Pacific island. With swaying hips, curling arms and warmth, the dance was a close relative to Hawaiian dancing with a little Middle Eastern tossed in.
Allain was divine — a silken creature who enchanted with her sure footing and fluid torso directing otherworldly energy upwards and out.
Also worth noting was Nadia Arizpe, who danced the title piece. Dressed in a white gown and a scarf wrapped around her liquid hips, she was an enchantress.
Kareva Mateata Allain, performing in a bikini bra and short grass skirt enlarged by pompoms, followed in a rather sassy display. But the whiff of Arizpe’s loveliness hung on in the circle. Equally wonderful was Becca Perini, who jumped energetically and joyfully in “Little Yellow Thrush.”
“Immanence” was carried by an inconspicuous but heart-throbbing score by Mikael Mulholland. The music exalted the enigma in ways that beguiled.
“Immanence” will be repeated at 1 p.m. today at the National Museum of Dance, 99 South Broadway.