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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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