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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pizza à la Casa becomes a after-show ritual at La Villette for me. After the Festival d’Avignon, Memory of The Great Tamer has already been distorted. During the show, I compared it, rectified it, reinforced it.
The universe is the Great Tamer and the delicate surface the Earth.
On the instable and delicate playground, the earth or the universe, repeats the absurdity of human history. A day, a year even a century. A non-stop lost and found. the piece is even too short to compare with archeology. Dimitris is certainly inspired by the traditional three-act structure but time is not linear here. Or it is as our own history repeats but not necessarily in the exact way. New things are interwoven and the history evolves. The acceleration makes sense if we consider it as a learning process, also theatrically speaking, it is a crescendo.
When the shoe deracinates, the sound points into my heart, leading to a question of philosophy: can we get rid of our history? Or we just pull it out and put it back in a different pot? From dust to dust, from six feet under above. Like a tree, our life circles. Astronauts seem epic but their breath reminds me of those of animals. Yes, even one day we leave for the moon, the history will just repeat over there. If you have seen Kubrick’s Odyssey 2001, you know what I mean.
In front of the stage, orange, book, then the skull. That’s the thread of the piece. Papaioannou’s beaux-arts background outstands his works in the history of dance. The timeline is actually himself, not his canvas/stage. He starts with image, making it concrete with human body. Certainly he did absorb massively from contemporary dances, as he said so in Avignon. Subjectively, I saw Pina’s influence in several images, such as man in the water. He completed his works, giving it to us, the audience, to feel, to imagine, to connect.
In Avignon, I admired his attitude towards his works. A true artist I would say. He didn’t want to influence us by his origins of creation. True, some spectators were nervous. I am sure that a lot of them tried to catch up with critics on all the references. Is that necessary? Not for me. When I go to a museum, I let artworks approach me in the most instinctive way: lines, colors, volumes, etc. Don’t tell me the story, let me feel, imagine, connect. That’s how I treat all kinds of arts, including performance. If I am not connected, I just walk away. If you are not connected to The Great Tamer, you can do the same.
Last year, I reserved A Love Supreme at 104. Unfortunately, I could not go and offered the ticket to a friend. He accepted it with pleasure though he was quite disappointed with the last few works from Ana Teresa Keersmaeker. The day after the show, I received an email from him. He was sincerely happy with this piece.
A Love Supreme is the first dance in my 2018 agenda. I have to say: it was a breathtaking moment. If someone asks me what is jazz, I will ask him/her to watch this piece. Liberty with precision.
A silent debut. A prologue of four. They lean and bounce, give and receive. I don’t know many Keersmaeker’s pieces but this is not a déjà-vu. After the show, some spectators really criticise the silence while I find it indispensable. Keersmaeker and Sanchis give us a moment to « learn » the movement before the music arrives. It’s like when you run on a treadmill. You start slowly to get ready for acceleration.
When the music starts, I feel already living in dancers’ body and immediately synchronise my mind with the quartet. Back to the definition of jazz. Improvisation is always associated with jazz but improvisation does not mean absolute freedom. Same for dancers. Once they master all the patterns, the improvisation becomes intended and precise. At some moment I would like to applaud like we usually do during a jazz live. But I didn’t dare to.
The last part, I call it epilogue, is a mirror of the prologue. My eyes started to double explose both, like a 360° view. This piece is so distinguished than others I’ve known of her so far. In addition to Rosas’ typical language, the movement has a tangible elasticity. Keersmaeker is warmer than ever. However, I cannot tell wether it comes from Sanchis.
I also like a detail in the costume: creases of pants. I compare them to the head of John Coltrane’s music. These creases stay always straight even when dancers are in horizontal position. It could also be an interpretation of gravity.
Keersmaeker already made a live version of Drumming. I would expect to see A Love Supreme Live one day. Possible?
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.