In addition, the dancers are far from silent. They chatter, coo, howl, roar, snarl, and titter; they babble in tongues, intone Latin, and address us in English and bad French. One of the most delightful sequences stars Salvaron as St. Pancras, with Sts. Mamertus and Gervatius (Sabado and Paraiso) as his decidedly rowdy backup men. At St. Pancras’s tomb—wearing antic caps, their faces painted green—these two gasp and cough and yell doltishly, apparently swearing falsely on the head of the saint (literally). As per the legend, Sabado “cannot withdraw his hand,” and he and Paraiso drag and twist Salvaron around, trying to get unstuck from his skull. Paraiso sings lustily in counterpoint to the musicians whenever he can.

There’s nothing unusual about some of the dance choreography, but often the steps and gestures seem imaginatively wrung from the stories (Gutgsell and Barnett—as St. Vincent of Saragossa—convey their tortures in wrenchingly acrobatic solos) and from the holy images on view in stained glass windows and manuscripts. All the soloists and the women’s chorus (Sarah Rose Bodley, Abby Block, Storme Sundberg, and Takemi Kitamura, in addition to the three already mentioned) perform with gusto. But the agile, highly vocal members of the men’s chorus (Philip Montana, Arturo Vidich, Bryan Campbell, Sydney Skybetter, Clay Drinko, and Brandin Steffenson) are the evening’s real heroes. Huntsmen, hounds, archers, wild beasts, executioners, a red-hot gridiron—you name it. You wouldn’t want to meet any of them in a dark forest or the shadow of a cathedral.

Rommel Salvaron with Nicky Paraiso and Keith Sabado in  
Christopher Williams’s "The Golden Legend."
Yi-Chun Wu
Rommel Salvaron with Nicky Paraiso and Keith Sabado in Christopher Williams’s "The Golden Legend."

Instructive Christian fables like these are drawn from an age when devils prowled the earth and heaven was the prize that made daily life bearable. Williams and his many colleagues make the terrors, the weirdness, and the fantasies come alive with scant pity and sometimes droll, always vibrant force.

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