REVIEW: David Bolger cast his mother, 78, in a work about swimming.
When the Dublin Dance Festival asked David Bolger to create a solo, the choreographer opted to go in a different direction. The artistic director of Ireland's CoisCéim Dance Theatre wanted to include his mum, Madge Bolger, a stage novice.
So we know he's a good son, but how did the piece turn out? Just lovely. "Swimming With My Mother," playing through July 22 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, is a delightful meditation on a relationship that thrives in and out of the water.
Early on Madge, 78, says by voice-over that she enjoys swimming because it's something you can do on your own, that there's no need for a partner. The same could be said of dance. But what David, 45, successfully locates in this work is the place where two passions converge, and the joy that comes from sharing them with someone who truly understands. For the Bolgers, it seems, swimming and dancing are as natural as breathing.
The movement takes its cues from the pool -- flutter kicks, backstroke, arcing arms, a sense of buoyancy and fluidity. David is in perpetual motion, almost like a restless dolphin, undulating and bobbing along with an urge to just keep going. Madge uses a well-honed swimmer's technique to propel her as if she were an explorer in liquid space. She radiates confidence and serenity, her face as placid as a lake at dawn.
While the work is often playful (including a few ballroom twirls and a bit of slapstick pantomine) its darker aspects linger in the mind. At times David loses his bearings. His hands flop against the floor like a fish in distress. When he strays from Madge for too long he returns to her side gasping for air. David remarks (also by voice-over) that he has always felt safe with her. He is a grown man with a career, but the boy inside still longs for his mother's stability, especially when the literal -- and metaphorical -- seas get rough.
The evening concludes with "Deep End Dance," a short film directed by Conor Horgan showing David and Madge tumbling, splashing and supporting one another in an underwater duet. We see their complete ease with this environment - and with each other. It's a stirringly intimate coda to an evening celebrating the strength of familial bonds.
Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.