When Nitin Sawhney envisioned a theatrical realisation of his album Dystopian Dream, Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang were commissioned to give it form and bring it to life on stage. The 2015 album is Sawhney’s musical take on personal loss and grief, which triggers a larger contemplation and search for significance. Both choreographers, time-tried collaborators and founders of Company Wang Ramirez, aimed for a comprehensive rendering of the emotions contained in the music. As they are joined by singer Eva Stone, the result is a hybrid production of dance and music.

<i>Dystopian Dreams</i> © Johan Persson
Dystopian Dreams
© Johan Persson

Arguably it's become common to place musicians beside the dancers rather than in the orchestra pit. Iconic choreographers Jerome Robbins and Pina Bausch differently but nonetheless brilliantly achieved this in Suite of Dances and Orpheus and Eurydice. Yet, in Dystopian Dream singer Eva Stone is considerably more embedded in the choreography. Despite her seemingly inexperienced physicality and movement, it is while she dances alongside Ramirez and Wang that the piece displays its strongest moments. Considering both choreographers' previous work, choreographing for and performing with pop legend Madonna to great success, it seems to have been a judicious and obvious choice for the project.

The intensity develops when the three performers join each other and interact through movement in unison. It seems to be the fruit of having created a brief safe haven from the overall atmosphere. As suggested by its evocative title, in Dystopian Dream the protagonists seem afflicted and isolated whilst being tormented by one another. Eva Stone clearly emerges as the dreamer, played with by the dancers from her nightmare, but it also seems she has a hold on them in return. Through these relationships, the choreography avidly reflects the initial idea of Sawhney’s album of loss and isolation. The staging suggests one's evolution through various stages of nightmares. It creates beautiful tableaux thanks to an engaging and inventive scenography, especially while Stone floats and roams weightlessly through the air, enhancing Ramirez’s peregrinations across the stage, or projecting visual imagery all over the levelled set. 

The dancers deliver a fine performance embodying two contrasting styles. On the one hand Honji Wang’s movements are slow, fluid, airy, elevated; a reflection of her training in ballet and martial arts. On the other hand, Sébastien Ramirez’s moves are anchored into the ground, rapid and bouncy, of evident hip-hop extraction. Both excellent dancers, their display of styles is precise and mutually complementing, but misses out on bringing out total synchronicity. Nonetheless these diverse dance backgrounds are the perfect match for Nitin Sawhney’ album, a hybrid blend of Asian and European musical influences.

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