Editors' pick

Flight of Fancy (A Steampunk Ballet)


Editorial Review

Fringe review: 'Flight of Fancy'
By Celia Wren
Monday, July 16, 2012

Let’s hear it for the corset, garment of personal liberation!

You can almost imagine that cheer resounding through the world depicted in “Flight of Fancy (A Steampunk Ballet).” This charming and tangy new work at the Capital Fringe Festival, by the contemporary ballet company MOVEius Dance, imagines a society whose black-clad masses endure lives of dreary conformism, until a mysterious visiting Aviator unleashes their inner creativity. Enlightened, the drudges change into adorable pink and white quasi-Victorian undergarments -- corsets, bloomers, the odd bustle -- for exuberant dances conveying inner fulfillment.

Choreographed by Kathleen Howard and set to an indie rock score, the hour-long “Flight of Fancy” models its leather-capped Aviator on the iconography of steampunk, the aesthetic that playfully appropriates, and revises, 19th-century style and technology. In the opening moments, the telescope-wielding Aviator (Katya Vasilaky) glides across the stage in a basket tethered to pink balloons. Once dismounted, she attempts to interrupt a line of black-jacketed figures who are marching in unison to “Sunny Afternoon,” by the Kinks. Initially, the Aviator’s repeated interventions -- she bows and swoops her hand in a slinky gesture that evokes silver-screen glamor -- seem fruitless.

But then the marching drones lurch into crouching, lunging movements, as if physically shaking off repressive social conditioning. And pretty soon the stage is awash in rose-and-ivory retro lingerie, as dancers execute delicately ebullient skips and arabesques and supported leaps, to the strains of Spoon and Arcade Fire.

If the triumph-of-self-expression story line seems trite, the visuals are fetching. In one set piece, a woman shuffles wistfully inside a black crinoline cage, before shedding the contraption and moving freely. In another scene, dancers with flashlights strapped to their limbs cluster and spin, first in pools of stage light, then in darkness, the flashlights’ lit bulbs careening like fireflies.

And the Aviator? She balloons off, of course, to inspire other populations.