The scene is set: a few shields, a clutch of swords, a handful of crucifixes. Onto the sparsely arranged stage march eight Italian dancers – two men, six women – who proceed to take up arms. Choreographer Emma Dante needs no more materials, no bigger cast, in order to do her thing. In little over an hour, her troupe weave a terpsichorean spectacle that's low on props and high on emotional punch.
Dante has been hailed as a poet, an aesthete, and various other superlatives. Yet lest we get carried away with such lofty pronouncements, it's worth noting that she draws inspiration from some very concrete sources: the climate and culture of her native Palermo, and Sicilian puppet theatre in particular. The sea, sunshine, flirting, mourning and poverty of her upbringing find expression in the stirring movements of her dancers, suffusing the performance with a soft nostalgia. It is a wonder to behold.