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Flash Review 3, 3-7: Et pourquoi
Tanztheater Sans Tanz from Christian Rizzo
By Tara Zahra
Copyright 2002 Tara Zahra
PARIS -- It's often a bad sign when
a dance performance is an hour and forty-five minutes long with no intermission.
Either it means that what you are about to see is so intense and dramatic that
any interruption would destroy the mood, or that they are afraid you'll escape
if given the chance. Unfortunately, the latter proved to be the case with Christian
Rizzo's concert at the Theater de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt last Thursday, reminding
me why Tanztheater without the Tanz is almost always a bad idea.
Rizzo's work, entitled "et pourquoi
pas: body makers, falbalas, bazaar, etc. etc.?" was true to its title. This was
a work which asked "why not?" Why not dress up as Spider Woman and dangle a chrome
ball between our legs? Why not wrap ourselves in black tape and then make the
audience watch as we get unwrapped in tedious slow motion? Why not dress a man
in a French Flag leotard and surround him with dry ice, or stick him upside down
in a hole wearing a tutu and pointe shoes? Why not have a woman in a lace cape
and helmut buzz around him? Unfortunately, there proved to be several reasons
why one should not do any of these things before a paying audience.
One is that clever props (and especially
not-so-clever props, like the old pink flamingo) do not substitute for creative
choreography. The piece had the feel of something created on a rainy day in the
basement by a bunch of bored kids, excited at what they could get away with. But
any hint of playful innovation was so played out with minimalist repetition that
the audience could only feel that the joke was on us. The entire work was staged
on a blank white set with nothing but a rotating platform in the center. Props
and costumes and dancers were slowly assembled on the platform, as if for a photograph
or a postmodern fashion show, then just as (excruciatingly) slowly removed, piece
by piece. An eclectic soundtrack could have been a high point of the evening,
until a twenty-five minute segment in which the only sound was a voice chanting
the names of serial killers and their victims. Maybe it was a statement, but more
likely it was simply self-indulgent.
Rizzo's focus was relentlessly on
the body for its own sake -- the dancers always wore masks of various kinds so
that you would not be distracted by personalities or faces or genders or emotions.
I think the masks only made it easier to dislike the personae. One inspired moment
was a contact improv segment in which the dancers, all dressed in various shades
of pink, with boots on their hands and gloves on their feet, became tangled in
a ball in which limbs could not be identified by owner or type (arm or leg). But
it was brief.
This was obviously a difficult evening
to enjoy. Don't get me wrong; humor, props, theater, kitsch, the body, fashion,
gender -- these are all worthwhile themes for exploration in dance. But "why not?"
may not be good enough for a choreographer attempting to venture onto new territory.
Choreographers always need to ask themselves why they are making specific choices.
At the very least, behind the playful spirit of "why not?" should lurk respect
for the intelligence of an audience that will inevitably ask why they should be
in the theater instead of somewhere else.
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