Lifting the Veil
Continuing his vivid choreographic illuminations of ancient spiritual wisdom, David Taylor, Zikr Dance Ensemble's artistic director, presents the world premiere of his newest creation, which lifts the veil from our various ideological illusions to reveal the unity and connectivity of all things.
|from Lifting the Veil|
Photo: Peter Strand
Well-chosen samples of Taylor's work, spanning from 1999 to the present, provide visceral and thoughtful stepping stones to this new work, starting with:
Time's Up (1999), a multi-layered metaphor, from what is now both a spiritual and scientific point-of-view regarding the illusory (and relative) nature of time. Set against the first of a series of sophisticated animations that run throughout the evening, we see a digital clock counting down the time remaining in this dance.
This is how most of us see time, as a series of intervals—and, indeed, light (quanta) is composed of a periodic series of wave-particle fluctuations, which are integral to its propulsion—but, by the same scientific token, Singularity (often considered the starting point for seeing the universe on a timeline) also exists in the present, as the first dimension (the foundation of three-dimensional space), and thus providing everything that ever was-is-or-will-be in the moment; in other words, the past-present-future is now.
At that higher state of consciousness, as Taylor describes it in a recent call, time ceases, as we sense in the fluidity of this piece.
In the eternal present, connections exist between different dimensions, as Taylor illustrates in his second piece:
Parallel and Elevated (2001), in which two beings—who have been intimately connected in various forms through many lifetimes—interact, in this instance, with one embodied on the physical plane and the other manifest on the spiritual plane, together sharing normal everyday experiences, and ultimately switching roles as their incarnations proceed in a beautiful fusion of classical and modern sequences, all set to a tone poem by Brian Eno.
|from Parallel and Elevated|
Photo: Peter Strand
Such a state between two beings requires both having achieved equally evolved states of consciousness that transcend common perceptions of spacetime. There are, of course, many paths by which individuals can attain this level of being. In:
Walking Prayer and Note Values (2014), Taylor explores the Gurdjieff Sacred Movements as a means to this portal. G.I. Gurdjieff (1870-1949), as Taylor writes in the program notes, was an enlightned Armenian mystical artist who developed hundreds of exercises and rites to help his students become present and completely absorbed in the moment, thus avoiding subjection to the unconscious mind. He based these practices and rituals on various ancient sacred dances and esoteric movements that he gathered in his travels across the Near and Middle East and Asia, whose visual influence we see expressed in the simple, yet elegant robes and sashes of the ensemble.
The bell tones, periodic piano chords, and movement of the supplicants along grid patterns is mesmerizing, as is intended—to elevate the mind to a state removed from the multifaceted positions of the choreographic language; or, as Gurdjieff described it, to assist in the "harmonious developent of man" by a method of "combining mind and feeling with the movements of the body and manifesting them together."
Taylor continues his exploration of the kinetic, aesthetic, and spiritual nexuses created via symbology and movement in:
Runes (2018), which are letters from a Germanic, pre-Latin alphabet that later served as tools of divination and manifestation. The dance follows the general principles of the magical invocations with the runes cast on an East-West axis (or facing the sun). A white cloth is placed and employed to determine the direction of the casting; then, the focus becomes the pressing question of the supplicant and, in this dance, a correspondence to the levels of spiritual initiation.
In front of a projection of a rocky, pillar-filled valley that is extended onto the stage with various monoliths that slide in and out of the procedings, the Master of the Runes enters from his hoop circle, casts the sticks, and procedes to direct the energy as prescribed in a large book, as the dancers glide through elegant lifts before being enveloped by various forces enabling their initiation that engenders an expressive dance of three pairs, before the original hoop dancer brings the dance full circle, as the Word of the book is written in the initiate's heart.
Photo: Peter Strand
Following the 20-minute intermission, Taylor evokes the Greek legend of the Oracle of Delphi, a shrine that drew pilgrams for thousands of years, with their questions for the prophetesses (represented here in inverted states prior to their engagement) who breathed the sweet sickly fumes rising from subterraneum chasms in the rocks, which conveyed them into a trance that inspires a rhapsodic dance of various pairs in:
Oracle (2019). The dance ritual that arises among the ensemble is spectacular as are the costumes, including a gorgeous set of black dresses adorned with gold ribbons and sublime cerulean markings.
The mythological Greek roots are embodied in the artfully rendered dragons and snakes in the projections, as a tribal-infused dance ensues before the invocation concludes.
Photo: Peter Strand
Having thus called upon such distinct and powerful forces, Taylor offers his accumulated wisdom as a means of:
Lifting the Veil (2021 world premiere) from this world's array of illusions. Much of Taylor's work comes to him from outside sources in visions which, in this case, were inspired and structured around the four ages of human evolution as conceived in Hindu cosmology, spread over 11 scenes.
The striking multiple images of Hathor, one of the supreme Egyptian goddesses, crowned with orange sun disks and horns, lead her devotees, the ensemble, toward a portal in which the veil of "separation consciousness" shall be lifted, with humanity achieving "unity consciousness." Against a backdrop of the cosmos, and vocals drawn from Christian, Arabic, Buddhist, and Hindu chanting, we move through the ages, cosmic-scale lapses of time, experiencing an array of conflicts (underscored by the powerful animations accompanying the dance) rooted in separation engendered by spiritual ignorance.
Taylor brings these metaphysical forces down to earth in an enrapturing choreographical tale of a young girl who was abused, and finds no satisfaction in her relationships, two with males and one with another female. Higher beings/spirit guides/guardian angels are trying to help her release the pain. In describing this story, Taylor points out that despite the personal and collective pain we experience, which enforces a dualistic view of life, these higher forces are always at work, providing lessons, if we're willing to hear them.
As Taylor describes the quest in the program guide:
Until recently, only a small number of people have transcended separation consciousness for humanity's next stage of evolution: unity consciousness. The journey to enlightenment is the removal of the seven veils of illusion. The great spiritual masters and initiates have been guiding mankind from behind the scenes for centuries, towards a higher level of vibration and consciousness. Our charge is to open ourselves to these higher forces of light, and to truly lift the veils between the physical and the spiritual worlds.
Zikr Dance Ensemble's world premiere presentation of David Taylor's Lifting the Veil, closed on April 18th, after performances in April in Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Boulder, and Lakewood; however, a recorded performance is available through May 6th on the Dairy Arts Center website. Tickets are $10.