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Review 2, 10-8: Dancers or (Showroom) Dummies?
D.A.C.M. Probles the Difference Between Plastic and Tissue
By Tara Zahra
Copyright 2002 Tara Zahra
VIENNA -- How do you
tell the difference between the movement of dancers and the movement
of dolls? Groupe D.A.C.M./ Etienne Bideau-Rey and Gisele Vienne
set out to explore this question, and with it the boundaries between
the living and artistic body, in "Showroom Dummies," seen Thursday
in Halle G of the Tanzquartier Wien. In some respects their answers
were quite conventional: The dolls, or dancers playing dolls, were
the ones moving with the stiff, robotic gestures that we know so
well from fairy tales and street performance. Somehow, in these
scenarios, there is always just enough magic in the world for mannequins
to come to life, and never enough that they are endowed with muscle,
cartilage, and fluid motion. Perhaps the sought out difference between
the living and the lifeless body is really as simple as the difference
between plastic and tissue.
But if some of the answers
are ultimately conventional, the question, and the device of the
mannequin, provided for an interesting evening. Bideau-Rey and Vienne
both came to dance after training in Puppetry at the Ecole Nationale
Superiore des Arts de la Marionette in France. So even if the female
dancer as a doll is a bit of a cliche, they are able to offer some
new insight into the movement of both dolls and humans. The piece
begins with fashionably dressed mannequins and dancers frozen in
the shadows, draped over chairs, and left in corners, and indeed
it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. But the
hour-long piece soon becomes the "Fantasia" of a Macy's basement.
Mannequins come to life, and engage with humans who at first seem
to control and manipulate them. But by the end of the hour it is
clear that the dolls are full of their own will and in control,
dominating their partners and enjoying human indulgences (alcohol,
Most interesting are
partnering sequences between dancer-dolls and dancer-humans, in
which individual dancers move rapid fire between robotic and fluid
movement, and partners switch roles with incredible precision and
fastidious attention to small details of mannequin-movement. Bideau-Rey
and Vienne also display a talent for the fleeting ironic touch.
Mannequins are driven by human emotions (especially sexual drive)
and humans move without such emotion. The group of 6 dancers (Olivier
Balzarini, Jonathan Capdevielle, Ugo Dehaes, Marie-Caroline Hominal,
Helene Iratchet, and Vienne) actually seems much larger, as they
are remarkably capable of transforming their physical presence with
masks, costumes, and movement.
Bideau-Rey and Vienne
are young (both in their mid-20s) and new to the dance scene in
France. In "Showroom Dummies" they prove that they can say something
new with potentially cliched devices. Exploring the difference between
mannequins and dancers, dolls and humans, is an obvious starting
point for their work. But what other themes can be probed through
the creative engagement between puppetry and dance? We can look
forward to their answers to this question.
Editor's Note: Groupe D.A.C.M./ Etienne Bideau-Rey and Gisele
Vienne's "Stereotype" premieres January 30 in Creteil, France, at
the Maison des Arts.
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