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Flash 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, bad magazines).

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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