‘Fractales,’ a work of daring and grace, debuts in Montclair State’s Peak Performances series

fractales review

The Peak Performances series at Montclair State University presents Fanny Soriano’s “Fractales” through Dec. 19.

Fanny Soriano’s “Fractales” is making its United States debut this week, with her France-based troupe, Cie Libertivore, performing it at the Peak Performances series at Montclair State University. “Fractales,” as you may have guessed, is French for “fractals,” and fractals, in this pieces, has to do with the endlessly repeating patterns of life: birth and death, destruction and creation, rainfall, breathing.

The Peak Performances series at Montclair State University presents Fanny Soriano’s “Fractales” through Dec. 19.

There are, in other words, lofty ideas behind “Fractales.” But it’s also a work of visceral excitement: choreographer Soriano, who also collaborated with Oriane Bajard on the scenography, fills it with striking images and dazzling movement. You can meditate on what it all means, afterwards. But as you’re watching “Fractales,” you can’t help but get swept up in its bravura.

Soriano draws on both dance and circus techniques, and the five performers in “Fractales” (Kamma Rosenbeck, Nina Harper, Emily Zuckerman, Vincent Brière and Léo Manipoud) are acrobats as well as dancers. They tumble, and stand on each other’s hands and shoulders, and contort their bodies, and do flips, and even raise themselves to the theater’s rafters via aerial silk. But they also dance with a subtle grace when Soriano calls for that.

They perform within a circle, meant to signify the circle of life but also evocative of a circus “ring.” Sometimes they march around it, as you might see a circus performer do, or cavort like circus animals. When the dancers were doing different things in different parts of the stage, I felt like I was watching a three-ring circus, glancing from one area to the next to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

The Peak Performances series at Montclair State University presents Fanny Soriano’s “Fractales” through Dec. 19.

The performers got buried in dirt, and climbed up into a tree — not the branches, but the roots, which hovered eerily over the stage — and moved in patterns, intertwined and closely synchronized which each other, as if they were all part of one pulsating sculpture.

In the program, Soriano writes that the initial inspiration for “Fractales” came from her desire to give her children “a positive perspective of the world without being in denial about the ways it was changing. I was inspired by a quote from Coline Serreau: ‘Chaos is full of hope because it announces a rebirth.’ ”

All of which is perfectly encapsulated by those tree roots. The dancers climb, with great effort, to get there. But there they are, still at the bottom.

(Note: In a COVID-related development, Voleak Ung, who is pictured in the two top photos above and the video below, had to be replaced by Zuckerman, who performed flawlessly.)

Remaining performances of “Fractales” will take place at the Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. Visit peakperfs.org.


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