Sunday, September 20, 2020

Choreography versus direction

Sep 11. 2017
Tapis Rouge./photo by Erik Houllier
Tapis Rouge./photo by Erik Houllier
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Artists from different countries explore limitless possibilities of contemporary dance at an annual festival in Southern France

 Among the joys of watching contemporary dance works these days is the fact it’s impossible to predict what you’re going to see. As countries become better connected, various traditions and practices meet and blend. Meanwhile, the subject matters being explored vary tremendously. However, as most of the time, choreographers do not only create movements for their dancers but also work as directors and put other elements into their performances, all too frequently good choreography doesn’t guarantee a good production. Three premieres at the recent Festival Montpellier Danse illustrated this point.

In “Tapis Rouge”, by Ivory Coast-born and France-based choreographer Nadia Beugre and French composer Sebastian Martel, we saw what actually lies beneath the glitz and glam of the “red carpet” that seems to fascinate so much. Inspired by her experience observing women and children mine workers in Burkina Farso, Beugre used plenty of soil in this performance, which also featured the active participation of her sound designer and stage manager. 

Europe-based Brazilian choreographer Marcelo Evelin’s “Danca Doente” (“Sick Dance”) and his company Demolition Incorporada attempted to show how the world has affected us and led to “tired, fragile and suffering bodies”. It’s a genuine idea that’s worth trying but didn’t result in an engaging performance, as the nine performers had various degrees of understanding of his concept, which was inspired by butoh pioneer Hijikata Tatsumi.

The two works also suffered from a similar setback –many set pieces, props and music – and how these accompanied the performer was occasionally so in disarray that they took the focus away from the messages the choreographer/directors wanted to convey.

Noticeably, both Beugre and Evelin were also on stage performing, and even with the help of dramaturgs, they probably wouldn’t have the same view as that of their audience. 

In “Flood”, US-born, Belgium-based Daniel Linehan and his company Hiatus attempted less yet achieved more. Described as “a choreography of appearances and disappearances”, four dancers, whose costumes looked like a blend of traditional fabric and electrical circuits, repeated their movement sequences in increasingly shorter periods, the time marked by an electronic beep sound and lighting change. This simple concept made for an entertaining and arresting performance that made the audience look carefully at the differences between the segments and reflect on how we’re increasingly dominated by the speed of modern technology.

Festival d’Automne in Paris will present “Dance Doente” in October and “Tapis Rouge” in December. The former can also be seen at Kyoto Experiment in November. “Flood” is in Luxembourg next month.

 The writer’s trip was supported by Festival Montpellier Danse’s press office. Special thanks to Maiwenn Rebours and Natalia Matus

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