The Lotus Eaters
Helios Dance Theater’s extraordinary new work, The Lotus Eaters, for which we are currently in production, focuses a contemporary lens upon Homer’s classic, The Odyssey. Odysseus and his crew become stranded on the island where the lotus-eaters live. Seduced into eating the lotus fruit, the soldiers succumb to a pleasurable state of forgetfulness and apathy from war, family, strife and fear. Finally, Odysseus’ judgment prevails and he urges his crew back to sea before they are lost to the honey-sweet fruit that wipes out ambition and memory.
Choreographically, I am fascinated by the powerful kinetic imagery embedded in the story. I see Odysseus and his men characterized with forceful, linear authority. They cut through space as a propulsive regiment, breaking and reassembling their collective shape with masculine vigor and clear purpose. But beneath the male bravado lie deeper truths of sadness and innocence lost. When seduced by the lotus-eaters, these powerful, soldierly men melt into emotion and nostalgia, retreating from action to oblivion.
The lotus-eaters represent the feminine, engulfing realm of feeling. They move with syrupy, languid sensuality, sinking into the masculine world like oil through water. Seduction is their goal, and they spread throughout the regiment with liquid ease until all are enveloped in a tangle of limbs, mouths and memories. The lotus-eaters enact their slow, delicious conquest with fateful neutrality. It is the men who show an array of human emotion in the face of their helplessness: resistance, fear, arrogance, forgetting and, finally, the pleasurable release of will.
The allegory of The Lotus Eaters holds powerful resonance in our society today, with its many avenues and technologies designed for escape. The universal lure of oblivion is our collective, contemporary heart of darkness. A sensuous release from the complexities of modern life – who doesn’t yearn for an exotic fruit that erases anxiety and pain? Odysseus and his men ultimately find their way back to responsibility and the pursuit of greatness through one man’s strength of character. Odysseus represents the human spirit in its stubborn, fragile, and, ultimately, redemptive desire for life.
Helios Dance Theater’s The Lotus Eaters can function as a commissioned shorter work or as an evening-length piece involving multiple scenes and a magical set.
– Laura Gorenstein Miller, Artistic Director