I am strangely attached to Belgium and artists from there. Jan Martens didn’t draw my attention till a friend told passionately about the pieces he saw at the Théâtre de la Ville. Ever since, I have the name in mind when scanning programs.
When Nederlandse Dansdagen released their program for the 20th anniversary, I was thrilled to find Rule of Three preview. I booked my return train ticket based on the schedule of this preview. I was right. The first session overwhelmed me immediately. A bit of talking between sessions, Jan explained the origin of this piece: inspired by the invasion of social media in our daily life, the new work literally outpaces his previous ones, resonating with the stream of fast-moving information. Not only the movements, but also the music. NAH was not present on that day though. Will my friend still be passionate about this accelerated new work? I had a doubt, asking Jan why he decided to change. His answer was simple: the idea of the piece decides the way how it represents.
Martens says that he is not a choreographer as what he uses in any piece already exists. In this piece he also highlights the collective works from the three dancers, who are really outstanding. I learned from their flyer that their upcoming tour includes Paris. I kept it, walking to Maastricht station. Coincidence. The dancers were on the same train. They went back to Belgium.
Determined to really dive into this piece, I booked two dates at the Espace Cardin, the nomadic Théâtre de la Ville.
9 November 2017. First night in Paris. I sat at the left loges, quite close to the stage. However, I couldn’t see the projection. When the light turned out, NAH set up the tension and excitement with precision. Slowly the rhythm became regular, all my memories from the Centre Céramique came back, woven into a complete piece, seamlessly. Repeat, evolve; repeat, transform; repeat, transmit; repeat, restart. Up and down, left or right, the tension is maintained at the same level without deviation.
Regarding the costumes, Valérie Hellebaut’s choice of primary colors seems evident but makes perfect sense. Rule of Three is the equivalent of rule of colors. All colors come from red, yellow and blue. Three dancers also mean uncalculated possibilities of movement. If the choreographer were more sophisticated than Jan, LED use in costumes could have literally translated this connection.
Suddenly the music stoped when NAH threw away his drumsticks. My ears took some time to adjust to the sudden silence. The following part was a surprise. A good one. Dancers got undressed and wiped their sweats with the already sweated clothes. They got hydrated as well. A sort of ending?
Not yet. Then they started some postures, together or apart. The stage light became intensely white, making their bodies marble-like. A contrast of sound, color and movement. I felt intrigued at first, then enjoyed. What a moment of peace and tranquility! Of course, it is not surprising to hear that certain spectators couldn’t stand anymore and even started leaving. That was part of the bet Martens put on stage and it worked. I knew that he sat in the orchestra and thought that he must smile in the darkness at that moment. On stage, Steven smiled to a spectator who tried to break the silence with applause. Not yet. When they finally started putting back their clothes, that was the end. I stood up applauding and took the picture when Jan joined the crew. I tweeted it when I walked to the subway station.
I went back four days after. I chose this day because I found a place in the first row of orchestra. That was the moment when I saw the projection. As I already saw the complete work, I understood immediately its meaning: playlist. Yes, Jan gave the list of all sessions in advance to the audience but I doubted if the first-time spectators would notice this detail and its association with the piece. What a brilliant idea! Before the show started, my head couldn’t stop running over visually the playlist. Then the light turned off.
This time I enjoyed even more the piece than the previous time. A crescendo. If I compared it to a song, this time I had already the melody in mind. I could move easily my eyes from movement to movement, from dancer to dancer, without getting lost. It’s kind of a live montage and I shot my own version of Rule of Three. If Jan wanted, he could easily reorganise the piece one day to give another flavor. But I feel that this is not the type of things he will do.
Last session. As I knew when it would stop, I let my thoughts float. Life slows down, coming back to essentials. We don’t need clothes but our skin; we don’t need music, but our heartbeat. When all the artificialities fall down, sense, sensuality and sensibility come back. What a talent Jan is! If everything stopped with the music, it would be a piece with much less sparks.
Sincerely, I want to see this piece a fourth time, a fifth, a sixth,…
The day after, My doubt confirmed: this friend posted his disappointment of Rule of Three on Facebook.