With Voronia, Marcos Morau, artistic director of Barcelona-based La Veronal, draws on the image of Krubera Voronia, the deepest cave on earth, to explore the idea of evil. Through the work, he shares his thoughts about the human condition. Abandon all hope: Voronia is a descending speleological journey to Dantean hell with a touch of David Lynch.  

© Edu Perez
© Edu Perez

Dressed like hospital janitors, the dancers slowly sweep and vacuum the stage as the public finds its way to the seats. As the lights go off, the space is occupied by bizarre creatures dressed in black and white nervously beating their hands against their hips like flies, or writhing in agony on the red carpet that partially covers the stage. Rather than classical lines, virtuoso jumps and romantic duets, disarranged grand battements, claw-like fingers and truncated arm movements “greet” the audience. The characters are capable of travelling, turning, bending and dancing together as a group, but these sequences are frequently interrupted by shock-like, jerking movements.

The first – outstanding – solo shows a male character struggling to stand up and move, while a combination of intrinsic malfunction and external forces that control the dancer as a puppet prevents him from escaping. The illusion of free will, the incapacity of coordination between different parts of the body and also among the characters, and the certainty of failure, are present throughout the piece.

An elevator – in fact sliding doors located upstage – transports the audience to different circles of hell. In one of the most intense moments of the piece, we are confronted with some sort of “last supper”, danced to the sound of the famous intermezzo of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Imprisoned in this tableau, some characters try once more to move and break free but fail to do so, while others remain impassible (or conformed) before this situation. The beauty of the score contrasts with the grotesque movements of the dancers and the sound of glasses being overturned on a fancily dressed dinner table by clumsy waiters. Particularly moving is the part where a desperate guest (Sau-Ching Wong, in a theatrical performance of extraordinary dramatic force) tries to convince her peers to escape, just to realise instants later that there is no way out. While one cannot understand the words, her voice and gestures convey the anger, the frustration and the profound sadness of someone who has no choice but to endure her eternal fate. At the end of the dinner, lights go on and the nature of the bond established between artists and audience changes: we are no longer spectators of this journey to hell, but a part of it.

Supported by classical and electronic music, as well as by old-testament passages projected at the top of the stage, the choreography highlights the imperfection and hopelessness of human beings. Conceived by Morau together with the performers, this visceral work stands out for its authenticity. Each movement – whether dynamic or static - is filled with force and meaning. On top of that, despite the common language shared by the company, each performer imprints his/her own movement quality to “accent” his/her performance, in order to translate the desperation, solitude, boredom and pain that inhabits the characters.

Voronia is grotesque and disturbing, yet poetic and sophisticated. La Veronal showed how powerful a work can be when both choreographer and performers let go of mainstream conceptions of harmony, precision and virtuosity to explore some dark sides of the human mind and soul. Either mesmerized by the force and the courage of the dancers, or depressed by Morau’s account on mankind, one doesn't leave the theatre indifferent to Voronia