First seen in the Holland Dance Festival last year, this reprise of Summa fuses the unique talents of the Amsterdam Cello Octet and Brazilian choreographer Samir Calixto to the sublime music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. The Hague’s Korzo Theatre, as always, provided the ideal venue.
The all-white stage, set and costumes were offset by the seductive brown patina of the eight cellos as the musicians sat in an arc in front of a curved, metre-high, white sand-covered rostrum which spanned the up-stage area dominated by the Korzo’s inexorable back wall.
Described as a performance about longing for consolation and tranquillity Summa is divided into three distinct parts. The first, Descending, was a fairly low key affair with the two dancers, Samir Calixto (an unscheduled and rare treat seeing the man himself dancing) and Camilla Montes, dancing separately at each end of the rostrum with little reference to each other, being almost a visual accompaniment to the music.
The dance really came alive in the second part, Remaining, where the couple formed a relationship and the exuberance of the choreography came to the fore with both dancers excelling in an exciting pas de deux.
Ascending was the final part of the piece in which the relationship fell apart. The dancers, both now stripped to the waist, were again separated, he on the rostrum, she on the stage below. The agonised contortions of the two sweat-covered naked torsos expressed an unbearable torment which was as powerful as it was heart-rending.
The short epilogue, Summa itself, brought the couple together again but with, it seemed, little hope of reconciliation as they both stood cruciform with sand running slowly though their fingers before the piece culminated in a moving pieta.
Arvo Pärt’s music is an integral part of Summa (meaning sum or amount in Estonian), much more than just an accompaniment. Summa is, in fact, the sum of several short pieces that Pärt wrote specially for the Amsterdam Cello Octet. The eight musicians are an essential component of the visual presentation to such an extent that one sometimes found oneself watching them rather than the dancers.
The orchestration was ideally suited and exploited the rich resonant tones of the cellos and moved seamlessly from melodic, transcendent moments to those of aggressive discord punctuated by sustained silences. The flavours and colours of the composition had echoes of Schubert, Schoenburg, Max Richter and were a joy to be immersed in.
This is a deeply satisfying and complete production. Visually the whole piece was spectacular with Samir Calixto’s own simple but effective decor enhanced by the minimalism of the white costumes designed by Min Li and complemented by Pavla Béranova’s subtle but powerful lighting.
Summa will be visiting several other venues over the next three or four weeks and I would recommend that you find one of them and give yourself a treat. Michael Hasted 28th November 2019
Photo by Joris Jan Bos/Korzo Producties
The tour of Summa continues until 22nd December