Water is the source of all life. It was from that fount that Motionhouse drew inspiration for its “Scattered.”
As seen at Proctors on Saturday night, the psychedelic dance burst to life with a septet of acrobatic performers who animated an ever-changing video behind them.
A creation of this English ensemble’s directors, Kevin Finnan and Louise Richards, the work was a hypnotic, high-speed ride through the ice age to catastrophic drought and back again. At every temperature change — wet or dry — the dancers strove to survive. Indeed they did, triumphantly.
The dance required more strength than technique as the performers traveled along and launched themselves off a half-pipe. This small slope, from which the dancers slid and hung, doubled as the screen for the video of icebergs, waterfalls, puddles, faucets and swimming pools. It was all perfectly timed so every projected splash or drip corresponded precisely with the dancers contact with the wall.
The piece began with the dancers shivering, rubbing their arms and crouching to warm themselves against the backdrop of ice. With toes and fingers curled, their agony was palpable.
While some crumbled to the floor, other dangled from the top of the half-pipe wall. And when they found themselves inside a freezer, those who held onto the top started the melting of the ice cubes — and the subsequent rush of a waterfall. That turned into a tsunami of plastic cartons, which led to the drying and cracking of the earth.
In the dry and desolate drought, the dancers turned to lizards — scuttling atop and below the half-pipe.
Then, in happy relief, the rains came again.
For the full effect, the viewer needed to suspend reality. That would have been more easily achieved if the dance were placed on a smaller, more intimate stage. The large Proctor’s stage overwhelmed the half-pipe.
Still, the extreme gymnastic partnering and fluid speed at which these energetic dancers performed refocused any waning attention back to the moment. And, as previously eluded to, these dancers had limbs of steel, not only hanging off the half pipe, but also hanging off each other. They also nimbly ran up the half-pipe to its top as if striding up a flight of stairs. (At one point, that did seem the case as the video showed an escalator.)
Near the end, they also flew from the ceiling in harnesses, jumping into the depth of a pool and pulling out drowning friends.
The final video was an explosion of abstracted water molecules and a jellyfish the dancers bounded through — tethered to the wall in sheaves of fabric. It felt exhilarating.
All these hallucinations shielded the true intent of “Scattered” — a warning to us all of our careless consumption and its polluting effects. As it mesmerized, “Scattered” suggested that we should all take heed of our waste, especially when it comes to our most precious resource, water, a metaphor for life itself.