“Les Colombes: The Doves” is an inspired 45-foot long aerial sculpture made up of two thousand paper doves by German artist Michael Pendry. The installation that went up in December 2018 (months after the debut of “Path of Miracles”) soars through San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and of peace. Its creation involved the congregation and the community at large who folded the doves and wrote messages of hope and peace on each of their wings. “Les Colombes: The Doves” has serendipitously become the perfect metaphor and set design for choreographer KT Nelson’s 2019 site-specific dance, “Path of Miracles.” Both are communal murmurations with a trajectory of hope and inspiration.
During “Path of Miracles” the talented ODC dancers weave throughout the enormous vaulted cathedral, moving the audience as well as the 17 a cappella singers (Volti) as they perform the choral work of British composer Joby Talbot. The dance takes its name from Talbot’s composition and reflects the fully realized integration of music and dance, space and installation for this perfect site-specific performance. As vocals echo through the cavernous cathedral, dancers ripple through it, as thousands of paper birds appear to fly. The audience treks through the space like pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela, the ancient Catholic pilgrimage in Northern Spain that inspired Talbot’s composition. The dancers are dressed mostly in white and like the white doves hovering above them they have a uniformed lightness of energy and radiance, continuously sweeping across the marble floors into fast tableaus and holds. By contrast, the street-clad singers appear as one of a kind, land-bound creatures of different ages, ethnicities, sexes, heights, sizes, and physical aptitude. To the singers seeming delight and at times fear, dancers lift and even carry them as they sing. Even their conductor, Robert Geary and his music stand, are subjugated to this manipulation as he intently tries to conduct while appearing to be floating downstream.
Every area of the cathedral is used from balcony to altar, with the final third movement in the nave. In this soaring segment, the ensemble performs simultaneous duets and trios at different points of the rectangular area, with the chorus now gently touching and guiding dancers. Nelson’s multilayered choreography, with only vague hints of liturgical gesturing, is often propelled by its own momentum, leaving the impression that they are flying out of the cathedral doors into the night and into greater freedom and peace.
David E Moreno