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Flash Festival Review, 12-14: No Clothes
"No Paraderan" & Little Dance from Berrettini

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

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PARIS -- The kindly publicist did warn me that there was not a lot of dance in Marco Berrettini's "No Paraderan," but as both presenters -- the Theatre de la Ville and the Festival d'Automne -- list this spectacle under the category of "Dance," thus luring ticket-buyers with the promise of orchestrated movement, they can hardly expect a self-respecting dance critic not to critique it as such. So: Seen Friday at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt, "No Paraderan" might just as well have been called "No Danceran," or at least, "Hardlyanydanceran." Not counting the opening segment of two glittery-dressed ersatz Martinettes doing a sort of pantomime dance to a live Vegas recording of a drunken Dino crooning, a later chorus line of cigarette dangling Sammy Davises, and some mild miming elsewhere, "No Paraderan" is a not terribly original theatrical satire on the artifice of spectacle in which there is little choreography among the yuks.

I'll 'fess up I did a lot of yukking during the show, enjoying much of it at the time; I was even annoyed by the intermittent chorus line of spectators who, less engaged, filtered out of the theater before the end of the 95-minute show. But if Berrettini -- and his fellow performers -- deserve thanks for presenting a diverting evening, I'm not sure he deserves all of the credit. The pristine recording of Dean Martin which opened the show, featuring the performer drolly vamping with his orchestra with wise-cracks that often came at the expense of his own apparent drinking problem, was witty if disturbing. Less diverting was the choreography Berrettini created for the leggy Anja Rottgerkamp and the frilly Carine Charaire, whose sequence fell somewhere between depicting the Golddiggers -- chorus (and often arm ornaments) for Martin on his 1965-74 t.v. show -- and defined real dance.

I laughed a lot for Dino as well as during what followed, particularly a segment in which several performers one-by-one introduce, with much fanfare, a star who never shows up. But I suspect a theater critic would have thrown up his hands and declared, "Seen it."

The most engaging segment also seems to involve a degree of cheating: At the end of the show, the eight -- or maybe it's just seven of them -- cast members form a centerstage line facing us, preparing to say goodbye. The performer on the stage left begins declaiming, the words are picked up by his or her neighbor and repeated, with additions, until a blare of horns which indicates it's time for the actor speaking to deliver a farewell schtick. It gives the appearance of improv and yet in reality appears to be fixed -- a structured improv in which nothing is left to chance. The exception is Berrettini's own exit. On the evening when I caught the spectacle, when the 'choreographer'-performer asked the audience to send him on his way with whistles (or boos) as opposed to applauds, they not only obliged with gusto but peppered the general hooting with specific accusations, no doubt variations on the demand, "WHERE'S THE DANCE?"

The question should also be posed to whoever programs the dance for the Festival d'Automne. In a season in which the festival is co-presenting more than twice as many theater pieces as dance, did we really need for one of the selected 'dance' programs to be more theater than dance? Indeed, if there is a theme emerging in the festival's dance programming, it seems to be indulgence. I've now seen four of the six programmed evenings, and in each one, the choreographer gets to indulge something: Alain Buffard dance insiders, Mathilde Monnier a dalliance in P.J. Harvey, Anna Halprin dance as therapeutic tool, and Berrettini his new hobby theater. Dance-wise, I don't see any of these artists probing deep into the choreographic possibilities of their material, with the exception of segments of Halprin's seminal 1965 "Parades and Changes," parts of which were presented on her program, along with the dance-as-therapy "Intensive Care." (Monnier's "Publique" was highly kinetic, but often superficial.) I don't say that any of these artists don't have valid messages or faithful audiences, nor even that I didn't enjoy aspects of these works. But cumulatively, their dominance of the relatively thin dance cadre of the Festival d'Automne indicates a curatorial vision that neither sees the full scope of danse nor senses this season's general (and welcome) shift, elsewhere, back to dancey-dance.

In Berrettini's "No Paraderan," by the way, we did see one thing we'd never seen before, but it gets credited to the set designer, Jan Kopp. At the beginning of the evening, the lush velvet curtain hung just a couple of feet from the lip of the stage. By the end of the show, without us knowing how, it had somehow retreated all the way upstage, leaving a vast expanse, an expanse too vast for what had just taken place.

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