Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dance Performance—Contes Rendus

I have no experience in the field of dance. This analysis may therefore be slightly superficial, but I will do my best to analyze the aspects of the performance that I can. The show, called Contes Rendus, was said to reflect the life of a dancer. I believe that the piece was meant to be semi-autobiographic, judging from the program, and the interpretation of the said autobiography is mostly what I will be writing about.

There was nothing too striking about the introduction, as far as I could tell. The show opened in Stomp style, with the soloist, Alexandre de la Caffinière, in a jumpsuit, pushing a broom. The following segment was a Fred Astaire-esque pas de deux with the broom, which seemed to be an indicator of the dancer’s reluctance to continue on his custodial path. From the uninstructed, undiscerning eye, the dancing was unimpressive. Heavy reliance on the prop and a lack of dramatic or physically impressive moves was, in a word, boring. The music, by the Gorillaz, was an accurate preview of the rest of the show’s soundtrack, which was for the most part relatively electronic and jarring. It created quite a mood with some of the arhythmic features (like traffic sounds and such), contributing to what I believed to be the malaise of the artist's story.

The second movement was much more interesting. It began with what I can only describe as a rebirth sequence, where de la Caffinière stripped himself of his jumpsuit behind a semi-translucent screen of clothing-bags and proceeded to extrude his naked limbs from behind the screen. We soon discovered he wasn’t actually naked, but instead wearing flesh-tone briefs. I can’t properly describe the techniques following, but they seemed to be accentuating the idea of infancy and the inability to walk, since the performer spent a lot of time on the ground.

After a brief pause of complete darkness, the stage was re-illuminated by a spotlight focused on a pair of red ballet flats. I would dub the next piece a discovery of dance—the artist spent a good deal of time looking at and circling the shoes before putting them on his hands and doing a kind of parody of ballet exercises with his hands. I can’t say that I know much about dance, but I think that this part was particularly well done and nothing short of beautiful. If I were to provide an example of what I’ve heard dancers call “line,” it would be from that segment. It was followed by the proper use of the shoes, in a style closer to what I identified as ballet (which was significantly less interesting than the hand-shoes).

The rest of the show went in a sequence of mini-segments I would recognize as experimentation (with a tutu), satisfaction (to the tune of a French rendition of Oh What A Night over Super Mario Bros. style background music), regret, and finally a bizarre conclusion involving a red satin boxer’s robe and what sounded like the main title theme of an American action movie with the protagonist commenting about how a person can define himself “not by how he starts something, but by how he finishes it,” or something along those lines.

I didn’t understand the performance, and therefore have no idea whether it was a good or bad performance. Despite this, I think that de la Caffinière did an excellent job relating the main points of his dance through his movements and choice of music. I wouldn’t exactly call his performance an emotional rollercoaster, but I definitely followed the dramatic progression. His cause was strongly aided by long periods of silence during which he would continue dancing (maybe with a tempo in mind, or maybe not); the silent periods were perhaps the most emotive of the show. Highlights included the introduction of the red shoes (which reminded me of The Wizard of Oz) and Oh What A Night, simply because the music was completely ridiculous and the accompanying dance reminded me of Footloose in tight, shiny silver pants.

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