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Flash Review 2, 1-17: Silly Love Songs
Montalvo-Hervieu Offers Up More Sweets

By Rosa Mei
Copyright 2002 Rosa Mei

NAMUR, Belgium -- It's hard not to like Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu. The company's dances glisten with optimism and are filled with whimsy and fairy tale. "Il etait une fois" (Once upon a time), begins "Babelle heureuse," created by Jose Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu and seen this past week at its premiere at Theatre Royal de Namur. In this Tower of Babel, the dancers know how to talk a blue streak through uprocking, bourrees, skitters and seismic hip jiggling. The company itself is an eclectic mix of breakdancers, contortionists, ballet, African, and folk dancers, capoeiristas and comedians. They're all unique and technically phenomenal. Watching these animated, articulate movers dart through space gives you the feel-good high of a sugar rush. Pass the bon-bons please....

My biggest gripe with "Babelle heureuse" -- and fans of the company probably wouldn't view it as a problem at all -- is that it's almost a carbon copy of Montalvo-Hervieu's last two works, "Le jardin lo lo Ito Ito" (1999) and "Paradis" (1997). The formula's the same -- from the dance mix to the Wonderland-inspired video projections to the clouds to the geekman non sequitur. And always Vivaldi. And as much as I groove on watching the cool pyrotechnics, I can't help thinking that the choreographic mantra might be something akin to that Paul McCartney Wings song: "You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs/ But I look around me and I see it isn't so/ Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs/And what's wrong with that/ I'd like to know, 'cause here I go again."

Again, the dancers each do their own thing, quite brilliantly, and when the ballet dancer and the African dancer do a unison jig side by side, we see the differences and similarities of the languages they speak. A universal language, a silly love song. The video projections provide larger than life companions -- giant tigers, horses, a Doberman Pinscher, kids and grandmas -- for the folks dancing on stage. Musicians Saeid Shanbehzadeh and Habib Heftabousherhri croon Middle Eastern tunes with the charisma of snake charmers. It's a carnival street show with the dancers hawking their signature moves. The capoeiristas perform a jinga while the b-boys toprock and play for one-upmanship on the phat factor. My flares and airtracks against your superman windmills.

Makes you wonder how Montalvo-Hervieu auditions dancers for the company. Do they post signs on all seven continents saying, "Show us your best tricks ever"? They cram 25 performers, not including the animals and folks on video, into a brisk hour-long spectacle. The dancers tell their joke and get off the stage. The actual choreography seems more like an in-order-of-performance list than deliberately sculpted design. And the multi-cultural relationship between characters tends toward the quaint, warm and fuzzy. In this genre of pop-abstract dance, Compagnie Kafig, also from France, delves far deeper into the issue of speaking in tongues while providing enough complex choreographic architecture to please a diehard Balanchine fan.

Nonetheless, it's not hard to understand the wide appeal of Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu. The performers are first-rate, the music's lovely and the video projections are magical eye candy. It's got enough joy and brilliance to convert non-believers into true lovers of dance. And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?

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