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The Buzz, 2-22: Americans not in Paris
More Provincialism from the Rencontres Choregraphiques 'Internationales'; Nik hits the Road to the Provinces

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

The Provincial Internationalists

PARIS -- I have a new standard answer for American-based choreographers who ask me how to get their work seen in Paris: 1)Be dead a long time or 2)Have created your work before 1970. The latest proof: The just announced line-up for the Rencontres Choregraphiques (so-called) Internationales which, once again this year, has invited no choreographers from the country that -- BONJOUR -- invented modern dance.

I would have no complaint -- or anyway, less grounds for one -- if the festival did not claim an 'international' terrain, but it does. How, then, to explain a line-up of 14 companies half of which are French, with the rest coming from the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Turkey, and South Africa (the last being France's reigning deity of non-dancey dance Robyn Orlin, who this time around isn't even claiming she'll be dancing but calling her work an 'installation.' If the installation is as installed as Orlin's dance works are danced, expect empty space.)

In addition to Orlin, the line-up includes Frenchies Lluis Ayet and Rita Quaglia, Kubilai Khan Investigations, Fabrice Lambert, Roser Montllo Guberna and Brigitte Seth, Caroline Picard, Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh and David Wampach. Germany sends Jochen Roller and Neuer Tanz, Turkey Aydin Teker, Portugal Claudia Dias, and the Dutch choreographer Michael Laub, whose riveting "H.C. Andersen Project" at last year's festival included a sort of stealh Yank dance-maker, Greg Zuccolo.

When I asked Rencontres director Anita Mathieu how exactly a festival that claimed to be international could exclude Americans, she answered, lamely, that "American companies do not communicate very much and rarely send their information." As I noted before, this defense parallels the excuse of an exclusionary country club that, "We're not anti-Black; they just never apply!"

A more likely explanation is that if Mathieu -- and the Paris presenting cabal in general -- were to actually program CONTEMPORARY American choreographers, the relative laxity of contemporary French creators might be exposed.

But let's test her defense; the festival's e-mail address is rencontres-choregraphiques@wanadoo.fr.


Nik Sticks

Of course, it may also be our darn sunny disposish that makes French presenters -- as distinguished from French dancegoers -- sneer at Yankee doodle dance-makers. I was reminded of this quality when the ebullient dancers of Utah-based Ririe-Woodbury played here two years ago. They made it through the pantheon because the company was presenting the work of Alwin Nikolais, as much an institution here as any American choreographer not named Isadora or Merce could hope to be. But if Nikolais was what sold the company to the presenter, what clearly won over the audience at the Paris show I caught was the infectious optimism of the performers. (How can you not be won over by an ensemble one of whose leading lights is named Liberty Valentine?)

The response to the run at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt was enough to convince presenters throughout France. This and next month, the company is making a return engagement, with gigs scheduled for Bourges (February 28 and March 1), Nevers (March 2 and 3), Bayonne (7 and 8), Arachon (10 and 11), Tarbes (14), Blagnac (17 - 19), St. Etienne (21) and Dijon (24).

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