The Love Behind My Eyes review: Brutal love by the sea
Ali Chahrour's dance revolving around two men at a secluded bay shows a love both passionate and dangerous. Photo: Guillaume Tesson
Dublin Dance Festival
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Choreographer Ali Chahrour’s dance knows a love that is seismic, shifting the ground on which someone stands but also dangerous enough to crack it into pieces.
There may be flashes of passion in The Love Behind My Eyes, a dance revolving around two men in Arabic Lebanon, but there is violence too. The opening scene is a heartbroken riposte to a former lover, as a grave-faced Leila Chahrour describes a break-up that is not unlike a murder scene. “God forbad that I would be unjustly killed for love but you, my killer, unfairly allow it,” she says. The end of a relationship seems like a desecration, a violation.
Previously seen at Dublin Dance Festival in Leila’s Death, a dance about her vocation as a funerary-singer, Leila’s beaming, ritualistic song is used here as a kind of otherworldly messenger. She floats into film director Salim Morad’s excellent production aboard a boat on sun-iridescent water, ushering us towards a secluded bay sheltered by the grandeur of towering rock.
There we find Ali, a still picture of contemplation, and Chadi Aoun, sliding into an oblivion woven from slow strange contortions. Poetically, this looks like a marriage between peace and restlessness.
The sublime choreography is alive to such contradictions. When both men interlace into a lift resembling an intimate embrace, a drifting Ali relaxes into a heavenly calm before flailing against an invisible danger. He is a man either in total bliss or he is drowning in his lover’s arms.
At one point in this profound night of brutal love by the sea, the dance’s eponymous gesture - signalling the love behind the eyes - takes the tense form of a powerless Chadi in Ali’s grip, whose fingers are pressed close enough to his captive’s eyes to make a King Lear audience squirm.
That Chadi literally falls from here into Leila’s bosom - customary in her headscarf and spiritual hymns - is a most perfect display of suffocating motherhood, religion – take your pick.
Shorn of the influences of European dance, Ali’s choreography is less preoccupied with showy line and rhythm than it is with glacial-moving, detailed formations. The final miraculous image shows Ali and Chadi indistinguishable to the eye, their bodies interwoven into an elaborate knot with only one detail put in focus. They are hand-in-hand.
Runs until 31st May 2021.