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Labyrinth Dance Theater in "NOOR"
Labyrinth Dance Theater
November 13, 2016
In “Noor,” the Labyrinth Dance Theater goes to war, boldly and, in thought-provoking ways, well armored.
The solo performance by Felicia Norton, staged at the St. Mark’s Church in the East Village, was co-choreographed with Sasha Spielvogel, who also wrote and directed the piece and is the artistic director of Labyrinth. The piece recounts the short, remarkable life of Noor-Un-Nisa-Inayat Khan, a saga that even amid the countless eye-opening tales of World War II stands out strikingly.
Noor, born in prerevolutionary Moscow to an American mother and a renowned Indian Sufist father, went through the Sorbonne and Paris Conservatory, authored a volume of Buddhist-inspired animal fables, fled to London after the Nazis seized Paris and, thiough an ardent pacifist, returned to occupied Paris as a crucial undercover communications link between Free France and England. She was executed at Dachau at age 30, shouting “Liberté!” as her defiant last word.
It’s a story bursting with drama at every turn, and in relating it Norton, barefoot in a burgundy gown with a few well-chosen props (blue sari , green “spy” raincoast, suitcase, gun), shows a sure command of her body. To a recorded soundtrack of voices and music, she ticks off Noor’s biographical high points, from an innocent’s whirling frolic against sitar chords to anxious enactments of the adult spy’s flight and capture to a resurrectionary coda where Norton glides in wonder, twining her hands in a climb to the heavens.
Norton shows a keen but always tempered expressiveness, certainly in the cause of dance in service to the story, but also perhaps because three generations later, the wounds of World War II, a conflict with its unprecedented freight of staggering horrors, may still be too raw for bust-out displays of virtuosity. If so, points to Norton and Spielvogel for digging into their imaginative trenches and gamely waging their own kind of struggle.
“Noor” was preceded by a performance by Roger Antonelli in a semi-improvisatory percussive concert on a crystal goblet with sung and chanted inspired nonsense syllables, as the artist strutted the stage to his own assertive, simplified choreography. It was designed to create a “sacred space,” in a fitting collective deep breath for the somber dance tragedy that was to follow,
Review by: Lehman Weichselbam
Image: Felicia Norton in Noor