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Flash Review 1, 11-30: Finding the Body
In Search of Foreign Parts with Lynda Gaudreau

By Paul Ben-Izak
Copyright 2001 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- Unconsciously, 20 minutes into Lynda Gaudreau's "Document 2" last night at the Theatre de la Ville/Abesses, I reached my hand under my shirt and started rubbing my shoulder. This is not an area of my body I normally dote on. But Gaudreau, as her research was carried out in front of us by Sarah Doucet and Mark Eden-Towle(who with AnneBruce Falconer also contributed to the research), was making me attend to parts of the body I usually take for granted. This is what dance, and particularly modern dance, can do when approached by a choreographer curious enough about that terrain, and executed by dancers whose entire bodies are sensitized enough not just to feel the paces they put them through, but to project those feelings to the audience.

In fact the dance starts with Eden-Towle stripping to the buff and then, in full light, mapping out the large sheet of paper with which more than half of the stage is covered. (If I'm reading my program right, this section was integrated from a solo improvisation by Vincent Dunoyer, the former Rosas dancer, called "Nudite.") He measures. He calculates. He assesses. He tests, lying on his back and -- hey, I noticed it so I'm gonna be honest with you -- with his penis pointed up. He pauses a moment, considering. Imagine if you will, a giant twister board, but undelineated, unmarked, and Doucet and Eden-Towle are charting it. White blocks of butcher paper are spread out throughout the evening, but really, that's not what they're mapping -- it's the body, the corps.

(I know, many of you are probably saying about now, "Well, DUH! Didn't he watch what we were doing in NYC?" Well, yes, but being in a foreign-to-me place has sensitized me to things that I wasn't so able to notice back home.)

But back to wasted body parts: Watching all this, I thought: How much of the body do most of us really USE? 10 percent? The rest being just carted around, a burden when it could be a playground? I'm sitting at a keyboard now and exactly ten digits are active. The only mind I give to the rest is that it not hurt too much; this I think is why we get ergo disorders, because we have been taking our other body parts for granted, not mindful of their comfort while we type away. (It's always a bit strange from me to switch back and forth from watching the non-stop dancers, dipping and craning and swimming and reaching, to the audience, we sitting there catatonic. Not really catatonic -- we're thinking deeply -- but the rest of our bodies are not being employed. And foot-tapping doesn't count, cuz that's just nervous energy that overloaded from the brain.)

Back to Gaudreau: She doesn't expect us to figure all this out without a guidepost; she gives us hints. In "Document 2," this chiefly comes from three films. Two of them are what might be called truly pedestrian: In "Bowling," by Gaudreau and Marianne Halter, we see men, well, bowling. The preparation. The slow strut into the lane. The release. The retrieval of the ball from the chute. For many of us pedestrians, as far as extending our usual use of the body, these are major strides, and I'm not being sarcastic. (In a work seen at the same theater last year, Gaudreau showed a film of two men chasing a girl who smoothly evaded them with her masterful dribbling of a basketball; and another of some young men and an an older man in a race, he fast-walking it, and continuing towards the finish line long after they were done.)

Later, we see, from the same film-makers, some men playing petan, that game where they throw a bunch of large balls at one small ball, to see who can get closest. This action was picked up on and extended by the live dancers, who, in an expanded echo of the men grabbing at or releasing the balls, plucked things from the air -- stars? -- jumped again and again in the air (like an athlete's celebratory, "Yes!"), and grabbed at each other, or batted each other.

The third film was from Thierry De Mey, and was called "Musique de tables." Three men sit at tables, beating and tapping and caressing boards that must be miked. It's both musical performance and finger ballet. Here, contrasted with Gaudreau's full-body play, we have the universe in fingers. Here I didn't quite get the relation, if any was meant, between what we were viewing on three small screens and what came next from the live dancers.

As long as we're talking about miking, Gaudreau has a tendency to over-fascination with this toy -- i.e. miking dancers so their breathing, mutterings, gasps, grunts, landings, and banging of hands to chest become the soundscore. After a while the effect loses its novelty, and there's not enough novelty in the sounds created to hold interest without a more complex score. Lynda Gaudreau's "Document 2" is performed again tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Theatre de la Ville/Abesses.

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