A World of Utter Turmoil

Compos Mentis by Manifold Motion. Photo by Divide.
Compos Mentis by Manifold Motion.  Photo by Divide.
Compos Mentis by Manifold Motion. Photo by Divide.

Compos Mentis from Manifold Motion

Through the On-Site Review program, 4Culture evaluates arts and heritage organizations who receive Sustained Support funding. On-Site Reviewers attend events produced or presented by recipients and write up short reviews, which give the adjudicating Sustained Support panelists a patron’s-eye-view of each organization.  Each month, the 4Culture blog presents excerpts from these reviews.  This month’s review is by Amontaine Woods.


Compos Mentis was an evening length multi-media dance performance by 5 female dancers from the contemporary dance company, Manifold Motion. The phrase compos mentis is of Latin origin and means rational or of sound mind. Interestingly, the performance connotes humans out of control, in states of extreme anxiety, vulnerability, and on edges of insanity. An excerpt from the program notes states, “What we seek has many names: understanding, peace, God, Nirvana, Samadhi, control, self-actualization, knowledge, sanity. Despite all this search and struggle, we ask: are we moving closer to our spiritual truth, or building more convoluted barriers to it?”

The stage was skillfully utilized as the performance was divided into what felt like interlocking scenes or vignettes that were played out on different areas of the main stage, and on a portion of the balcony. The performance began with a dancer draped in a dress that descended from the ceiling and was attached to the back wing of the stage. This dancer felt like something otherworldly, an angel-like entity, or a “spiritual truth.” Her dance is passionate but limited, moving in all directions as far as she can, but ultimately held in limitation by the constraints of her attachment. Throughout the night she lurks in the background like a compassionate presence available and awaiting recognition, but unable to directly act or interfere in the world of human affairs. As the evening proceeds, multiple stories told through movement and the creative use of props are executed at a fever pitch and a world of utter turmoil is played out before our eyes.

Violent despair emerged as a main theme, as one dancer smashed cups with a hammer and sent broken glass flying about the stage, another thrashed pillows from the balcony until they burst with copious feathers, and a third self-flagellated with seething abandon. One piece that utilized a makeshift television involved two women sitting on stools wearing space age headgear and being systematically electrocuted by a force quite possibly related to the flashing images emanating from the TV screen.

It is a tricky thing to work from a highly-conceptual place such as that outlined in the company’s program notes, and to bring those concepts down to a place where they can be concretely felt and seen. But that is what Manifold Motion has accomplished with Compos Mentis, and masterfully so. For me, this company is well beyond just great or skillful dancers, though they are that as well. Most notably, their conceptual brilliance, mind-boggling creativity, and choreographic fearlessness left me shuddering and pondering for days afterwards.

Go here to learn more about Manifold Motion’s upcoming performances.