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Flash Review 3, 4-25: Nada from Naked Means Nada
Charmatz at The Kitchen: Where's NYPD Blue When You Need Them?

By Sandra Aberkalns
Copyright 2001 Sandra Aberkalns

When asked if I was interested in reviewing Boris Charmatz/Association Edna's "Herses (une lente introduction)," which opened last night at The Kitchen as part of the France Moves festival, I said, "Sure." The press blurb made it sound like it would be an interesting evening. (Charmatz is the new kid on the block, supposedly quite experimental, and showing for the first time in the States.)

Pre-publicity for the performance made it clear that the dancers would be performing nude -- you have been warned, so no refunds! I jokingly told Dance Insider editor Paul Ben-Itzak that if Mayor Guiliani's newly formed Decency Committee (yes, our mayor is still trying to impose his moral code on everyone else) raided the performance PBI would have to come and bail me out of jail. If only we had been so lucky! Where is NYPD Blue when you really need them!

It has always fascinated me to read, or experience first-hand, how a choreographer perceives his work in relation to what the public perceives (I think the odds are usually pretty good that choreographer and audience are in the same ballpark). However, from the performance I saw last evening, Charmatz not only demonstrated how grossly he has underestimated the sophistication of the New York dance audience, but also that what he thinks is happening on that stage is not the same thing this audience was seeing.

In an interview with "Time Out New York," Charmatz said, "This 70-minute piece is slow. I'll bet in the United States it will feel really slow [Laughs]." Yes, it was slow but not because it was 70 minutes without intermission. It was slow because it started nowhere, didn't go anywhere, and the contact work between the dancers was what was in vogue here in the U.S. 20 to 30 years ago (i.e. been there, done that). It was slow, and boring, because there was nothing to stimulate me emotionally, intellectually, or kinetically. The choreography was average at best. I really do regret being so critical of Charmatz's work based on this one experience, but this is what he gave us to judge him by. Also, has Charmatz ever seen a work by Eiko and Komo? Now that is slow!

The dance is a quartet that uses five dancers: Julia Cima, Vincent Dupont, Myriam Lebreton, Sylvain Prunenec, and Charmatz. Except for at the very end of the piece, only four of the dancers are on the stage at any one time. In the program is the following note of intention: "Harrows (a slow introduction) is a piece about contact, specifically about the confrontation -- direct, ironic, or interactive -- with certain concepts of utopia." The program then goes on to describe a natural utopia, the utopia of the couple, and the utopia of the community, followed by other onerous explanations. Charmatz should have spent less time on all these words and more time in the studio developing movement vocabulary!

Even though the music, by German avant-garde composer Helmut Lachenmann, is not necessarily something that I would go out of my way to listen to, I thought that the deconstruction of several of his pieces was the most interesting part of the evening. A total of 22 boom boxes were artfully arranged throughout the space, creating a Surround Sound effect. Just goes to show that if a work is structurally sound you can deconstruct it all you want and it will still retain its integrity!

At the end of the dance, the group finally did something that caught my attention. The movement was a simple log roll but it looked so much like primordial goo that this should have been the beginning, not the end of the work. I was thinking that it is from this goo that life would begin -- without this there would be no Eden. The bodies were so entwined that I was having a grand time trying to figure out what limb belonged to which body, but alas it ended all too soon. The dancers exited the stage area leaving the audience alone with the cellist, Jerome Pernoo.

This last musical interlude was nine minutes too long and as soon as Mr. Pernoo lifted the bow off his cello the audience was not about to let him get a word in edgewise and began to applaud. The applause was polite but by no means warm or enthusiastic.

If you are determined to see this performance you have until April 28 to do so. For more info, please visit The Kitchen web site. However, you have been warned that so far, Charmatz is the weakest link in the France Moves festival -- good-bye!

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