DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
Première: Arts Court Theatre, Ottawa, March 1998



Dancer: Anjali
Choreography: Anjali
Music: Loreena McKennit (Quinlan Road Music, with permission of the artist)

There is one word that conjures our imagination above all others. That has a myriad meanings and provokes a multitude of dreams. It is a small word, but it is a huge idea. That idea is love. Few words are spoken so carefully. Few carry such heavy consequences or provide for such strong reactions. Why do we say we are 'in' love? We are angry, we are sad, we are hungry: these are all moods that spring from within us: but we are 'in' love. It is something that surrounds us; it overcomes us, stops us in our tracks. Love can be painful.

Many faiths use the idea of love between persons as a metaphor for our relationship with the divine. But love, even divine love, may be unrequited. The lover seeks, but does not find. This allegory is found in Jayadeva's great poem, the Gita Govinda, the Song of Krishna:

" This house of my friend seems like the enemy.
The cooling breeze sets me on fire. The moon's rays,
that should be nectar, are like poison, while we are apart"

In the song of Solomon, the Church is the lover:

"By night, on my bed, I sought him, whom my soul loved.
I sought him but I found him not. I will arise now and go into the city.
In the street and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him, but I found him not."

Based on the writings of the early Christian mystic, St. John of the Cross, and set to music by Loreena McKennit. The theme, the soul in search of God, is an almost perfect match with the sentiments of the devotional (bhakti) poets writing in India at the same period. Traditional Bharata Natyam has many similar themes. The journey by night, undertaken furtively, while others sleep, emphasizes the loneliness of the true quest. To experience the divine, it is necessary to forsake the commonplace. The lamp is the soul, that flickering beacon without which we are lost in doubt. Guided by the lamp, we can break free into the tranquillity of grace.

Upon a darkened night
The flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my home while all in quiet rest
Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair, I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
While all within lay quiet as the dead