Katherine Clifford ’14 reviews Dewey Dell’s “Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti”
Dewey Dell’s performance, Cinquanta Urlanti Quaranta Ruggenti Sessanti Stridenti, or Roaring Forties Furious Fifties Shrieking Sixties, was a fascinating mélange of movement, sound, and conceptual complexity.
Dewey Dell is an Italian theater troupe, which was founded in 2007. They spent two weeks at Wesleyan, gave two performances, and engaged with students in the Italian, theater, and dance departments during their stay.
Their performance last Friday night, September 16, fell somewhere in the spectrum between dance and theater, encompassing and overlapping with both performing art forms. Indeed, while the Wesleyan Theater Department sponsored this event, I felt like I was watching a dance performance, yet a very theatrical one. Their movements were not for the sake of pure aesthetic appeal, but they were symbolic and representative of the themes throughout the piece.
The idea of the piece was to portray the storms and seas in a region in the Antarctic defined by the latitudes known as The Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Shrieking Sixties. In the piece, three dancers are on a ship in these tumultuous seas; yet as the piece progresses, they are no longer characters, but they become representations of their environment. They become the ship, the ocean, and the winds, until everything merges into one blurred and entwined vision.
The dancers were dressed identically in black, each with a black circle painted on their face, effectively erasing their identities. The white outline around the blackened features of their faces and their exposed lower arms provided a contrast to their black enrobed bodies and the bleak, black and grey backdrop. Although the three dancers were sans identity so that they could merge into the intricacies of their surroundings, their hips were padded in order to accentuate their femininity, perhaps to show the feminine power of Earth’s natural elements. The bleakness of the color palette reflected the music, which was jarring, loud, and at times, terrifying. Sounds such as the creaking of wood, the wind and waves, and screaming voices realistically depicted the nautical setting. In sum, the music in conjunction with angular and geometric movements encapsulated a visceral feeling of inner turmoil and commotion.
At the end of the performance, I was left slightly dazed, asking myself questions, such as “What does it mean? Who are these people? What are they trying to depict?” Fortunately, a question and answer session with the troupe after the performance helped answer these questions, shedding light onto their artistic vision in addition to providing insight into the process of collaboration within their troupe. This avant-garde form of theater-dance was unlike anything I had seen before. As I tried to make sense of what I had seen through discussions with friends, my friends’ insightful comments and interpretations made me appreciate the great power of art in its ability to resonate differently and evoke different meanings for each person.