SESSION

Some songs, some dances, some noises. That’s how Colin Dunne presented Session and the same sincerity remarked the whole journey till the final a cappella.

Two dancers, two musicians. In 90 minutes they were more than their written role thanks to the smart use of their versatility. Take the table scene as example: everyone was dancing, a choreography of six hands and two feet; everyone was also percussionist if you just listened.

In addition to his acclaimed body movement, what passions me with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s works is his incessant curiosity which leads him to all types of collaborations. As he said, pleasure is born from collaboration. Indeed Session has this surprise effect and this is largely attributed to Colin, according to Larbi. I did watch the DVD of Riverdance before coming to France and probably Colin was in it. But defining Colin by Riverdance is not fair and that’s probably why he avoids talking about it.

During the creation process, Colin insisted on bringing the stage back to essentials trimming down all the unnecessary elements. Such mindset leaves for the audience a much larger space of imagination compared to certain Larbi’s previous works. Labri referred the psychotherary scene to midlife crisis as both Colin and himself happen to fall into this age group. However, the final output (without a single word) is self-explanatory without limiting it to his inspiration, at least for me.

If Play is joyful, Session is playful. Colin’s swinging leg brings me to the Irish coastlines; Larbi’s funny interaction with theremin reminds me of the undergoing human-machine relationship problems. When Larbi drags the carpet with Colin dancing on it, the Irish traditional stepdance finds its contemporary situation. Their passion for polyphony becomes a moment of unity and serves for transition. It is sort of a quartet’s jam session unleashing the freedom out of their impeccable techniques.

There is one question repeating at the end: What is the noise in your mind? When I left the TNB, more questions came into my mind: When we are busy with daily life, can we still hear the noise? If we can hear it, will we follow it?

Applause for Session at TNB Rennes

JR

After having watched The Land of Nod at La Villette, I was electrified and deeply affected. Ever since, I follow closely FC Bergman’s tour which brought me to the 2018 Holland Festival.

Food Center Amsterdam. A man at the entrance looked like an actor. He turned out to be David Davidoff in the piece. After the ticket control behind the black curtain, a three-floor building stood alone in the center, fully blinded and enclosed by the seats at all sides. It reminded me immediately of the Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp. In the next four hours (incl. 30-minute intermission), I was completely seized by everything that happened inside this stage complex.

Unlike The Land of Nod, JR adds a dimension of dialogues. The book is only about dialogues, told me Thomas Verstraeten. FC Bergman must have spent a significant amount of time working on the text as my concern of being lost without reading the book didn’t happen. Initially, Ivo van Hove found the book and it was supposed to be a co-creation between them. I cannot tell how it would look like differently but the output undoubtedly confirms FC Bergman’s exceptional talent and capability.

In this adaptation, JR is the center but under the spotlights mainly are characters such as Edward, Jack and Amy, who represent the soul of the piece. Their chaotic lives are consequences of or in parallel with JR’s. The building can be imagined as a projection of JR himself who at the same time observes inside what’s going on. Surprisingly(at least for me), the stage idea and film use were decided at the very beginning of the project. FC Bergman intends to illustrate the chaos of the novel itself in this amalgam of genres and refers the building to capitalism. The stage complexity also means the large crew « behind the scene »: 76 including the cast. But Gaddis’s 700-page fiction deserves a meaningful scale.

The piece is not about morality as JR is purely amoral. FC Bergman built the tower but didn’t stay on the rooftop. They hide behind the camera extending our vision, questioning themselves and ourselves. Part of them are in Edward’s body as well.

I ordered the book JR recently and just started reading it. Also I plan to watch it again at la Villette next week.

Briefing in Dutch
First view of the building
JR on the floor
Snacking area
My bookshelf

Story (of) Water

It was not only about Story Water. Let’s put it in this way: a story of water.

Summer breeze accelerated circling in Avignon, weather forecast seemed to be accurate. a rain in the middle of a performance is not exceptional in the history of the festival according to the tour guide of Avignon. Finally, the rain didn’t pour before the giant LED timer was shut. When I spoke to one of the dancers afterwards, indeed they were informed in advance but it was their first time performing at the Cour d’Honneur. So experience of performing in the rain didn’t exist. I wish the weather forecast were even more accurate though.

After the applause, when I walked out of the Palais des papes, unlike in 2017, I felt enchanted. Let me just be clear: I am not a loyal fan of Emanuel Gat Dance. I loved Sacre but hated Sunny. That was my feeling before watching Story Water which I loved.

Once friends regrouped outside the Palais, we kept arguing about some music and the projection. When we met Emanuel the next day, he was fully aware of those possible criticisms. What I perceive in this piece is the gradual transformation of dance from the status of sophisticated improvisation to that of universal tradition. In addition, physical movements interact with musical movements. Vice vera. Dancers and musicians form a river flowing in each and every spectator. This river moved me profoundly but it can have different effects on another person.

When to the projection, Gat admitted that it was added quite late in the creation process. He referred to the interchange of realities between the rehearsal studio and the touchscreen. The projection did succeed in replicate this effect. Some spectators criticised the naivety of the information projected. Well, if you are a smartphone user, you cannot deny this simplistic and violent way of communication currently dominating our daily life. Again, the job of art is to question ourselves but is not obliged to answer. The choreographer just shared his personal experience in an artistic way and we can interpret it differently but over-interpretation is misleading. Although I understand his reference, I see it in a different angle. I feel the importance of dance, or the power of life whatever is the circumstance. From chapter to chapter, the dance becomes warmer and warmer, the music less and less abstract. The contemporary jamming evolves to the diverse, colourful and universal humanity and that’s where my enchantement was born.

As the rain didn’t arrive on time, we decided to have a beer at the place du Palais. We were not alone but the square was no more crowded and the Palais turned off the lights. Thunders followed lightning. Then the rain poured. We decided to run back to the apartment. The water was familiarily warm and I found the joy of running in the summer rain when I was a kid. I screamed, sang and could not stop smiling. Story Water ended in water, wasn’t it a good story of water?

Note: Special thanks to Catherine from Danseaujourd’hui who organised the trip to Avignon as well as the encounter with Emanuel Gat

My public Avignon guide
Encounter with Emanuel Gat
Dancers and musicians who skipped the rain on the 20th July, 2018


Scala

The more I watch Yoann Bourgeois’s creations, the more I like his universe. For Scala, I went to the theatre twice. It is not necessary to summarize his works by inventing a terminology such as « acrobatheater ». However, since Celui qui tombe, he has become a captivating storyteller based on his signature stage language. He makes gravity tangible, moving and meaningful.

Back to his apartment, a young man starts releasing his other facets out of him after a day of hiding. He needs a dialogue with the inner world, unlocking his doubts and fears. It is not surprising but slightly unexpected: a cache-cache with himself. I am here and there. How many versions of myself do exist? Is she real? She is multiple too. Step by step, each self finds a balance with the others when the cache-cache becomes a sequence, a pattern, or a loop. If this is a dream, I will enjoy it; if this is the reality, I will blame the moon.

Dreamers, they never learn. Life is a staircase with no return. You make efforts climbing up but in vain. Life is a circle when the tail of your staircase meets the head. Is there a destination? Probably when life ends. Mechanically and « effortlessly », performers continued to glide downstairs; in addition to the music, I became emotional:

This goes
beyond me
beyond you

At the end, we are just tired of ourselves, tired of being sophisticated and different from others. Or we are just out of control. The Scala theatre is freshly painted blue and so does the stage set. When we cannot stand ourselves we just paint ourself Scala blue. One day, when archaeologists remove layer by layer the painting from the wall, they will find out. So does Bourgeois make a poetic one-hour tribute to Scala’s long history since la Belle Epoque.

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Violin Phase: Portrait Opening

A long queue keeps growing along the city hall building. BHV windows whisper that winter is coming. 15th, September. Sunny. Autumn. Today start European Heritage Days. So does the portrait of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker within Festival d’Automne à Paris.

Rue des Archives. Then Rue du plâtre. My first time in Lafayette Anticipations. I didn’t realise the stage location until I arrive on the first floor following the direction. Exceptionnally white, the stage occupies the courtyard and spectators the balconies. Yuika walks a few steps on stage and music starts. Actually the white is not painted but a layer of white sands. Her movement paints the stage in black, first a star, then a circle. Two equal parts, four equal parts, and so on. Music amplifies, repeats, varies. Created in 1981, this piece already sketches Keersmaeker’s signature movement. 15 minutes of beauty: tangible, precise, dynamic.

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« Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, you are not patient but impatient. » Injured last may, she is not allowed to perform as planned for this opening. And the recovery needs patience. After the applause, Keersmaeker come on stage starting with this anecdote. She fell from a horse and broke the right arm. « They cut my wings. » She said with such strong emotions. Memory of her works starts flashing in my head. Indeed, they are her wings.

She was in New York, aiming at expressing simple pleasure of dance with Steve Reich’s music. She found her inspiration from kids: spin, jump, wave the arms. I start navigating memory of Hashimoto’s dance. Keersmaeker keeps moving on stage as well, tracing Hashimoto’s footprint. When Rosas’s staff finishes sweeping the floor, Keersmaeker starts creating her own circle on a darker stage while continuing the explanation.

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The momentum cumulates in this structured geometry of continuity. The courtyard seems to become her private space. She misses the stage, and the circle may also make her continue to spin around. Like a Saturday afternoon, we, the spectators, are no more than her neighbours moving to our balconies, intrigued by the sound of her movement, her murmur and the music. When she notices our presence, she asks if we have questions. A brainless question from the second floor ends the conversation.

I walk out the foundation, still feeling emotional. Walking randomly in the district, I enter a cloister. On the wall I think that I find the feather dropping from Keersmaeker’s wings.

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Artwork by Marjolaine Degremont

Re(view): Bel

Contemporary art in whatever form gives artists space of possibilities. Not all artists have the same capacity of self-expression and my criterium is simple: connection. I am connected to Bel’s creations as much as to Duchamp’s Fontaine.

Gala is the first piece I saw of Jérôme Bel. It was in 2015 in Nanterre. Simple, but sincere. He gives the theatre to a group of people like you and me. Suddenly it becomes relevant minimising the distance between the stage and the spectators. Two years after, when I knew that there would be a portrait of him for the 46th edition of Festival d’Automne à Paris, I was so excited planning to watch every programmed piece. Disabled Theater and The show must go on fall in the same pattern as Gala. Banal but powerful pop music moves away from the singer’s aureole to each and every individual. I will never forget when the song Imagine started to play in MC93. I thought of the 2015 attack and my warm tears rolled down in the darkness when spectators raised their phones with light.

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Pichet Klunchun and myself @ Centre Pompidou

Portrait series are my main discovery during the festival. Pichet Klunchun and myself is an appropriate piece to understand Jérôme’s idea thru gestures as well as dialogues with Klunchun. He uses the traditional dance as a tangible reference to navigate his philosophy which stays coherent thru all these year. As I saw Jérôme Bel previously, I can even better associate his explanations with the movements mentioned. The eponymous piece, for Jérôme, is already dated. I understand his point. Indeed it is not as provocative as it was twenty years ago. However, it is still something different for me even I have already seen a variety of dance performances. And spectators still left during the performance.

When to the documentary Véronique Doisneau, we finally spotlight a ballet dancer from the background. Etoiles have their own name; so do unknown « decorative » dancers. The best part is that this was performed in Garnier making the idea symbolic. Cédric Andrieux pursues the same idea completing the portrait series with a modern dancer.

In the end, except the already-seen Gala, I watched one less performance following its title’s advice: Un spectacle en moins. If we don’t break down the boundary, there will be no new idea. I can still remember my joy of observing audience’s reaction in Garnier when Tombe was performed. That is all Bel about.

In Avignon, they attempt to…

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Cloître des célestins.

Les Hivernales.

Rising moon.
Summer breeze.
Falling leaves.

Sound of selfie.
Air-conditioning.
My aching toe.

 

He lies on stage, rolled in a blanket.
A few clothes exhibited with care.

Sitting at the right corner of stage,
he interacts with his Mac.

He pretends to live in her last apartment,
listening to her recordings,
pacing from « room » to « room »,
in her clothes and shoes,
like what she used to do.

In one room or another
that he used to stay,
he feels home anyway.
Connected are FB and email.

He dances, or ATTEMPTS to.

He doesn’t speak a word.
Her singing. Her speaking.
Enough.

He types words.
He speaks a few too.
A selected playlist.

She was alone. He is alone.
We came alone. We will leave alone.

He sent a message to his ex.
He is with himself.

From Hogue to Eggermont,
from Paris to Paris,
she will always be remembered.
In what way?

IK BEN AANWEZIG.
All by himself,

He finds his way.

Their eyes meet at the end.

He merges with the screensaver.

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Neues Stück II

Three weeks after, I am here again, in Wuppertal. Several months ago, Alan Lucien Øyen was still unknown for me. I had occasion to discover his universe at Chaillot for two creations: Simulacrum and Kodak. I like his sensitivity but the feeling was mixted. Unfortunately, the feeling stays the same for this new creation.

The theme is great: death/lost. He managed well the balance between dance and theater. He found a remarkable Helena. He made a scene for both Julie and Rainer. He…

Probably his explicitness limits imagination. The scenography is full of details. I had impression of sitting in a Hollywood filming studio: an apartment is an apartment, a shop is a shop, a bed is a bed. In Kodak, I also found the strong influence of cinematography on Øyen’s style but the stage was much cleaner.

Then the texts are complex. If I remember well, every dancer spoke. Julie is outstanding as usual while Rainer is certainly more comfortable with his dance (his debut and ending are incredible). Alan made a mélange of English, German, French, Korean, etc. Sometimes the same text is spoken twice, in German and in English. Sometimes he let non-German audience lost for a while (when Tsai-Chin sitting with Andrey in a shop). Is it necessary? Is it the best solution? Why not use subtitles?

Regarding Nazareth that everyone loves, it is the first time that I didn’t see her 100% confident on stage. Mr. Øyen maintained her stereotype roles without substantiality behind and some texts even don’t match her style.

Emotions are trapped in this four-hour (one intermission included) piece overloaded with details and words. All dancers do experience something else and they do give some memorable moments but the dramaturgy definitely needs to be simplified and concentrated before it becomes a classic stück.

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Applause

 

Since She

Chairs painted in matte black. Dancers dressed in black too. Probably it is not pure black as it reflects blue light, the recognizable kind from Papaioannou’s palette. Men are still in suits, but their pleated pants become slim now. Gowns get shorter with a variety of designs. Is it a Pina’s new piece or Papaioannou’s?

In the next 90 minutes, you will find out that it is THEIRS. One by one, dancers try to cross the stage walking on chairs. It is a river, an adventure, for all of them. Chairs are their heritage, from her.

The news about this creation was announced before the Avignon Festival last year. In Avignon, with some other passionate spectators, we asked him about this project. Dimitris would like to create new roles for the young dancers who could only interpret existing roles till then. Oh, he/she is the new He/She. Now she is she, he is he. Scott, Breanna, Oleg, to name a few. If you know Pina’s pieces from the early stage, do you remember the remarkable moments of Jo, Dominique, Nazareth? That’s how I feel. Nine years after, the transition is finally taking shape.

Dimitris must have watched a lot of Pina’s pieces; he manages to develop a common language representing both Pina and himself. It is more than a simple tribute. And this is NEW. As long as the company wears her name, it is irrational to create new works completely distinguished from her universe. This is the challenge: how to maintain the connection without repeating her?

The most memorable scene of tribute for me is when Michael carries all chairs on him, Ruth is flowing on a river made of cardboard tube. I think of Papaioannou, and chairs represent Pina’s works. Ruth is eventually Pina. Dimitris exposed his « maladroit » process of creation to Pina. At that moment, I felt so emotional.

At the end, dancers touched the sequin panel revealing shiny traces. The reflection reminds me of glistening waves of the small stream in front of Pina’s grave. I was there on that morning. I have been to Wuppertal in the last few years but this was my first visit to her grave. A coincidence. A solemn moment. When I walked out the theater, I saw a lot of faces with tearful eyes. They tasted joyful, I imagine.

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Applause after the performance in Wuppertal, 20th May 2018

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Special thanks to Gizem, Ayse & Kerem for your company to Pina’s grave

A Saturday Evening in Search of Identity

After a drink near the Seine river in such a pleasant day, I headed to Vanves for the last day of 20th ARTDANTHÉ Festival. Three pieces, one theme: identity.

Medhi-Georges Lahlou: Run Run Baby Run Run

Place des lavandières. Welcome to Medhi’s playground. Ladder, flowery cactus, treadmill, pomegranates, watermelons. The oriental symbols continue to appear: hijab, tajine, spices. He climbed up the ladder and dropped the tajine. He climbed up the ladder and dropped the cactus pot.

In the world of fast-consumerism, culture has been coded, tagged. However, when we consider the world as a playground, it is easier to make fun of these codes or tags. That’s what Lahlou did. His toy/weapon is a pair of red high heels. He smashed the watermelons with the high heels and shared them with spectators. The sensory dimension of the piece started to appear and continued till the bold ending when the audience poured spices on him. That was a joyful and moving moment: on the treadmill, he tried to, it seems, run away from the identity; in reality, he embraced his identity with the oliver-oiled body allowing spectators to « tag » him with all kinds of spices. Nevertheless, the shiny red heels stood out his pursue of his identity inside. What a fearless and encouraging declaration! I can still hear his natural and childlike laughs.

Mohamed Toukabri: The Upside Down Men (The son of the road)

Mohamed stood at the entrance, greeting every spectator. I apologized my impoliteness of not introducing myself. He counted the number of each first name, starting the piece with his findings. Similar to the cultural symbols appeared in Medhi’s piece, Mohamed is a tag for Toukabri though people associates it today with terrorism instead of exoticism. Shall we name ourselves numbers instead?

Mohamed’s second identity challenge is his appearance which is not Tunisian enough. Shall we scuplture ourselves to the stereotyped look instead?

He cannot choose his birth but he can choose his path. After having discovered dance in a train station in Spain, he finds his path of becoming a dancer against all the conventional careers for men such as lawyer and doctor. Luckily he has a great father showing empathy to this unusual choice. As a tailor, he feels that his son is a tailor treating his body as textile. Mohamed told sincerely his personal story weaving seamlessly words and movements. The story didn’t finish and I eager to discover the rest of the piece soon, in Paris or elsewhere.

Dario Tortorelli – D NO BODY 5 #transcending

Closing the festival with D NO BODY 5 was a wonderful decision. Lahlou and Toukabri are inspired by their personal experience while Tortorelli takes a step back in history. Here we were back to the beginning of innocence. We were nothing but bodies: man or woman, black or white, blonde or curly hairs. Human history is about identity proliferation. You need a name, a nationality, a passport, a culture,… We make ourselves sophiscated with this endless game and have to bear the consequences when political correcteness becomes such a subtle game to play. Following dancers’ progressive move and the comforting music, I entered into meditation, fully conscious.

When the spotlight intensified, it felt like the sun burning us. The three dancers stepped back, disappearing in the darkness. Sadly, sunrise brought us back to reality. Look at yourself, Human! The spotlight said. God mirrored our past with a malicious smile, leaving us in an emptiness. Who we are now? Where are we going? Questions kept pumping out when my mind was still in the astonishment. Speechless, I was distracted when applauding. That’s how a Saturday evening in search of identity ended.