“The most fruitful events come to us long before the soul notices them. And when we open our eyes to the visible, we are already firmly attached to the invisible.” This quote, taken from a text by Italian philosopher and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio heads the program notes of Swedish choreographer Virpi Pakhinen’s latest ensemble piece, Volto Subito. Pakhinen has made a name for herself as one of Sweden’s most highly profiled dancers, performing acrobatic and poetically inspired solo shows which have also generated interest abroad. She has been awarded several prestigious prizes and scored critical acclaim for her dancefilms – most recently Arbor and Sahara (Swedish Television, 2013) – which have been presented at international dance film festivals.

A strong penchant for spirituality infuses Virpi Pakhinen’s choreography, and this holds true for Volti Subito. In addition, rich underscoring to the spiritual theme is provided by the score for organist Gunnar Idenstam and electropop composer Jonas Sjöblom, and the gleaming, jewellike costumes of Helene Thorsell.

This time, Virpi Pakhinen’s company consists of two men and two women. In addition, a very young child - a little boy possibly as young as 10 - whose gilded, almost angelic presence takes on the challenging role of mirroring the movements of the adults, seemingly unphazed of their virtuosity. The stage is located between two sections for the audience, resulting in the dancers being, seemingly, fenced in.

The piece is symmetrical, beginning and ending with the quartet of dancers, and interlaced with duets. At first the female dancers, then the male dancers approximate the horizontal two-dimensionality of Egyptian hieroglyphs - occasionally allowing their arms and hands to spiral upwards, with the fluttering motions of birds.

As Virpi Pakhinen herself enters, the atmosphere tightens perceptibly in the room. Her presence is commanding, almost goddess-like, a thin braid snaking down the side of her clean shaven head, prefiguring the snaking movements which she goes through. The duet between one of the men and the choreographer herself becomes more erotically charged, limbs touching and bodies arching with desire. But the movements remain stylized, almost yoga-like as the bodies create abstract sculptural patterns. Pakhinen becomes the vortex of the others’ movements, a set of duets arranged symmetrically around her.

I find myself intensely moved by the seriousness with which the dancers interact with the child on stage. Is the adult teaching the child the ways of life while beckoning him to mirror the movements - or are the roles reversed? Is the child, with his innate, unsullied wisdom and beauty, in fact the teacher of the grown man who fixes his gaze with dark, searching eyes? Vanishing and returning, moving in a counterclockwise circle as they circumscribe one of the sections of seated audience, the dancers seem involved in a ritual founded on very precise rules. It is as though their inner child serves as a guide, a reminder of the innocence residing within each of us.

Halfway through the performance I find myself slightly frustrated with the predictability of the movements. Moving like caged animals before us, the dancers reach for the invisible without ever seeming to succeed. Increasingly, our frustration grows and we long for their release - a release in the shape of a gigantic arch of movement and sound, rather than the confined rituals at hand.

With Volti Subito, Virpi Pakhinen aims to turn our gaze torwards our inner selves, rather than the restlessness of contemporary society where, in her words, ‘organic movements are drained by digital cascades of information’. Her thought-provoking piece evokes precisely that inner landscape, where battles are fought for the preservation of oases of peace.

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