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Flash Review 2, 10-12: Weak Dance
Critic, Some Questions
Pop PARTS Quiz from Burrows & Ritsema
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2001 The Dance Insider
(Editor's Note: The following is
the sixth of our month-long series of reports from around the world celebrating
the 20th anniversary of Anne De Keersmaeker's company Rosas. To read more reports,
please type "De Keersmaeker," "Rosas," or "P.A.R.T.S." into the search engine
window on our Home page.)
PARIS -- "Weak Dance, Strong Questions"
was the name of the work presented last night at the Theatre du Rond-Point, where
the Champs Elysees meets the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, as the latest installment
of Parts a Paris, the month-long festival featuring work and performers, faculty
and students, from Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's Brussels school. The performers
and choreographers were PARTS faculty members Jonathan Burrows and Jan Ritsema.
I was not familiar with Ritsema's work, but Burrows I have never forgotten since
an unforgettable performance at The Kitchen four years ago. As explorations of
the mathematics of dance go, the former Royal Ballet dancer's work runs about
as pure as you can get -- and consequently presents the most difficult type of
dance for me to follow and understand, let alone presume to interpret. I am not,
however, above clever presumptions as a rule, and fortunately, last night's title
gives me an out.
What follows is, a)The questions
I have the nerve to presume the artists might have been asking, and b)some instant
questions, mostly facile, that occurred to me while watching the dance. The latter
are in parenthesis. Oh, and at the end, I'll offer a slightly more profound observation.
The natural sounds of Paris traffic at night from what really is a Round Point
where several boulevards meet, filtered through several open windows at the left
of the rectangular stage, composed the soundscape. The lights were set at one
bright (but not too bright) level. And Burrows wore a dark green t-shirt and grey
slacks, with black tennies, while Ritsema, older and heavier, wore shiney black
shoes, black slacks, and a white t-shirt with a chartreuse square design. And
glasses. Both men sport thinning short hair, Ritsema's with a touch of grey.
Some Questions from a Weak Dance
Critic Jotted Down While Watching Jonathan Burrows and Jan Ritsema Perform "Weak
Dance Strong Questions":
Why do we move? What are you seeing
inside you when you dance? Where am I going?
What does it feel like if I do this?
What does it feel like when I rub my tummy? Where does this lead? What happens
if I trip myself? How many different ways are there to trip myself?
How much space can I frame if I spread
my arms wide and take big steps? How does Doug Elkins do that wave thing?
Where is the wind coming from? How
high can I jump? How high should I jump? What's that? Should I...? Is there gold
here? What's that under my shirt? How do I stand different if I grab my crotch?
What if I...? Am I lighter if I grab my buttocks and help lift it? Are you there?
Should I jump? Where should I jump to?
Will you have this dance? What does
this look like? How heavy is this? How long can I hold my legs up? How low can
I go? Can I touch my toes?
(How do they know what time it is?
Would an alien touching down in this space right now, with fifty people sitting
in a semi-circle watching in silence as two men in street clothes contort themselves,
wonder what strange church this is?)
How big was it? Where's the wall?
(Why did I have that cafe eclair
right before the show? Does anyone hear my stomach grumbling?)
Where am I?
(Where am I?)
Can you do the Twist? Can you twist
like this? What's that over there? How does this feel? Where was I? How long can
I hold this position? I -- oops, what's that? How did I get like this?
(How can someone be so self-contained?)
What did I just do to my back? How
can I get out of this? Was that a police siren? Wonder if it's coming for me?
How can I keep my balance with my tummy pressed to the floor and my head lifted?
Can I hold it until the end of the
show? What if I do this? Hello?
(How would Ben react if he were seeing
this? What does the woman next to me think? What if she can read English? Who
can read your handwriting?)
How long can I walk like this?
(What would R. think of THIS process?
Would she still be able to be diplomatic? OR would her foot be tapping relentlessly?
Why is Jonathan smiling? Are they finally going to dance together? What would
Deborah Jowitt write about this?)
What does he want? Can I serve him?
Can we have a time-out? Could I interrupt him Can I park here?
(Will people get exasperated because
I'm not really describing the actual movement? Will they think this approach is
meant to be sarcastic?)
Let's see if I can wiggle under here?
(Why are they collaborating? How
are they collaborating? Where are the pictures? Did I just inadvertently imitate
the Danish guy, Ritsema? Is it more presumptuous to tell people what I'm thinking,
or to presume what the performers are thinking? Oops, they just walked out the
door while I was writing that -- is it over? They're clapping -- does that mean
they liked it?)
....As I wandered out of the theater
and back onto the Champs Elysees, the contrast was almost overwhelming -- after
the simple excavations of Burrows and Ritsema, I wasn't quite ready yet to return
to the over-the-top, almost grotesque extravagance of that boulevard, which has
almost become a tourist-ridden parody of what it once must have been in simpler
times. Passing the Louis Vuitton boutique, I spied a private party within. I knew
at once that I much preferred the private party I was coming from; I also marvelled
at how lucky we are to inhabit, in dance, a world which welcomes in one week,
in just one of its capitals, both the extravagance and opulence of the Palais
Garnier, Roland Petit's "Notre-Dame de Paris," and the finely turned out dancers
of the Paris Opera Ballet and the skeletal sketches with bones of Jonathan Burrows
and Jan Ritsema.
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