Turning to nature In Zara Sands ‘Hibernation Dream’ | Review

Words by Katie Hagan

Although Zara SandsHibernation Dream may open on a habitual woodland scene, there’s nothing predictable about this dance work. Instead, and more compellingly, Hibernation Dream casts the wood as a site for transformation and mystery; an escape from society’s irons; a springboard for new discoveries and sensations.

A woman dressed in an off-black suit lays down her briefcase. She lies on the floor, the copper leaves her bed, a faux animal-print blanket the only cover from the world above her head. She seems unruffled by her surroundings, at home in an environment that many cautionary humans do not remain in for too long.

Unexpectedly the hissing of a wild cat stirs from within the tufty coverlet, the squirming and screeching sound steadily intensifying.

The hissing emboldens; the sound now overlaid with authentic and artificial (not sure I’m convinced by the latter) roars of pain, hunger, bitterness and red-blooded jealousy. As the sound brews and stirs the body kicks off its furry shield and begins to writhe in response to cat-like tolls. Arms become legs, limbs extend and envelope. A metamorphosis of sorts is happening before us. (Composer and collaborator Will Chaffey has done a fine job building the suspense here).

Then the movement and sound stop with as much random immediacy as they began. The woman dusts herself off, picks up her briefcase and departs. Who is this and what has just occurred?

Hibernation Dream turns attention to the questioning of certain behaviours and which ones are perceived as being natural or unnatural. It uses the woodland landscape as a platform to ask who we become in nature when away from the pressures of society, and whether within this context, we can feel at ease behaving in a way that’s usually loaded with stigma.

The piece asks how much of our ourselves we can let go of when in ‘natural habitats’ — whether we can shrug off society’s dregs, look in the mirror and truly live without fear of judgement or reproach. Do we know our own identity this fully? Can we strip back to our true self in an age of masquerade, misinformation and distortion?

Sands’ Hibernation Dream offers a perspective on the age-old conceit of nature versus nurture; of how much of our behaviours we’re in control of. It also loads another layer onto this; probing at whether we can change how we behave and become more ‘natural’ after being indoctrinated for so long.

In that sense Hibernation Dream sends a very clear message of defiance and power, shedding light on the importance of overturning norms and slamming the status quo. It communicates the necessity of doing this — after all, our bodies are the ones that hang in jeopardy if we don’t.

Hibernation Dream is a dance film by performer and director Zara Sands and composer Will Chaffey. Behind the scenes photos are by Anthony Crockett. Cinematographer and stills from Hibernation Dream are by Leigh Alner.