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Flash Review 2, 5-6: The Vanishing Corps
Rencontres Choregraphiques: ou ca?

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

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BOBIGNY, Seine-Saint-Denis, France -- Just before the close of the first act of Wanda Golonka's three-hour walk-a-thon, which opened the Rencontres Choregraphiques at MC93 last night, William Forsythe, not-at-all disguised in a face-covering long blonde wig, orange sweater, green slacks, and boots, rages about a cage under the seating of the grande salle. It's a frighteningly apt metaphor for what is happening to much dance here, as supposed 'choreographers' abandon research into the body (in French, corps) for dilettantes' diversions into the other arts. Thus we get theatrical, filmic, or other-media excursions into territory the experts in these fields have already covered long ago, and better, while dance rages in a basement cage, forgotten by those charged with advancing it. So when Anita Mathieu chooses to open her Rencontres Choregraphiques festival with a piece in which only three of the nine segments feature something that could feasibly be called 'dance,' I have to ask "Ou ca?" Or, roughly translated, "Where?" Where exactly was the promised choreography in this spectacle? And where's a curtain-stopping Intermittents' strike when you need it?

Except for Forsythe's explosive solo -- the program credits Golonka for the choreography, but the precise energy containment and release here, as well as the signature stop-and-start joint moves, particularly in the arms and behind, plus the lack of developed choreography seen elsewhere in the program, suggest Forsythe should get much of the credit for what he dances here -- except for this expressive solo and a compactly rendered and choreographed opening scene performed by Hilke Altefrohne scaling and re-scaling a mountain made of a canvas draped over the middle audience seating, except for these interludes, I feel like I already wasted three hours of my life in my dwindling 43rd year (I turn 43 tomorrow) on Golonka's "An Antigone," her take on a translation of a translation of the Sophocles tragedy. (Or, as the futuristically yellow-clad Jennifer Minetti droned at one point during an excruciatingly long segment delivered entirely while sitting at a table in the backstage scenery shop, "Perde de temps.") So I'm hesitant to squander much more time in the quixotic quest to correct those who really don't want to be corrected. But for the benefit of society -- principally those who would come to see these Rencontres Choregraphique under the mistaken belief they'll actually encounter choreography, and those who would and have funded this festival in the 'dance' category -- I feel one must address what looks like a sinister development that has lately infiltrated dance, at least here in Europe. (Golonka is German.)

"An Antigone" -- I really cringe at invoking that noble name in so ignoble an enterprise as is being countenanced, condoned, and commissioned by Mathieu here -- ends in a frighteningly fascistic fashion. After simply lying on his back on a short rectangular platform and screaming for about twenty minutes, Olivier Kraushaar then gets up and proceeds to 'invite,' two by two, the spectators onto the stage, where he seats them in their chairs. Incredibly, soberingly, alarmingly, no one refused. My companion and I exited before he could attempt to compromise us, but after departing, I realized that compromise was precisely Golonka's agenda here -- worse, culpability. By (sweetly) inviting the audience onto the stage after the artistic (and perhaps politically, fascistically motivated) horror they had witnessed over the preceding three hours, she was in effect seeking to implicate us -- just as the killer, having accomplished his deed while a crowd sat passively by, then induces each of the witnesses to throw a stone at the victim. But I say: NO, NO, NO.

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