The dark subject matter -- a crew trapped in a sunken ore carrier -- is transcended in scenes of gorgeous intensity.
With "Wreck," Carl Flink and his company, Black Label Movement, have created a riveting portrait of humanity on the brink, in which community is the bedrock of integrity. The work's premise is as simple as it is harrowing: death. Specifically, the 13 movers (as Flink calls them) represent workers trapped in the last freezing, watertight compartment of an ore-boat resting at the bottom of Lake Superior.
The androgynous, anonymous dancers -- dressed in blue or gray jeans and shirts -- roil through much of the 90-minute work with the robust physicality of a single, muscular organism negotiating survival. They sway, inch and ebb across the floor. They heave, hoist, toss and catch each other with breathtaking strength. Using their arms, hands and torsos they indicate the fast-moving pistons of a giant, dangerous machine.
The performers jut across, swirl around, spring between and wiggle out from beneath four benches representing the cell in which they're trapped. Hands press on chests, arms crook around necks, fingers lock, arms pull, torsos push, faces smoosh together -- each touch simultaneously a gesture of solidarity and a bid for control.
Embedded in this dark mass of embodied need are gorgeously rendered portraits of memory or longing, which surface like air bubbles from the dark emotional depths of "Wreck." When Laura Selle-Virtucio, in her black lacy dress, stands on Eddie Oroyan's heaving chest, she's death made corporeal.
Leslie O'Neill, in a white wedding gown, precariously stands on Flink as he slowly rolls across the floor, his hand rising up to clasp hers in moments of tender support. A heartbreaking duet with O'Neill and Oroyan makes physical the emotional framework on which the relationship rests, and is underscored by the haunting string melodies of Mary Ellen Child's evocative score.
The five musicians, performing live on stage, brilliantly conjure the sounds of the sea, whether the screeching of gulls, snapping of wires or sonic reverberations of the deep. During Jamie Ryan's rigorously gestural solo in a beam of light (just one of Jeff Bartlett's stunning lighting effects), Peter O'Gorman provides illustrative vocal accompaniment.
The piece opens with Bryan Godbout's quicksilver explosion from the group; it ends with Ryan's gesture of blind refusal and resignation. But whether in life or death, "Wreck" seems to say, either may be a singular sliver of humanity, but neither are alone. Nor need we be.
Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities dance critic.