to you by
New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women
and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review, 1-13: Glacial Decoys
Probing the Essence of Daniel Leveille's Icebergs
Copyright 2005 Chris Dohse
New! Sponsor this Writer. Click here for
NEW YORK -- I was profoundly
moved by Daniel Leveille's 2003 performance of "Amour, acide et noix." But apparently I got it all
wrong. Leveille writes, in the press blurb about his newest piece,
"La pudeur des icebergs" (The modesty of icebergs), seen January
6 at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, that "to truly experience,
or encounter, this dance performance, one cannot be caught up in
the process of deciphering multi-layered meanings."
Damn. I love interpreting
the meanings of dances. I was just arguing with someone that whenever
you place the human body in space and time, you have potential for
meaning, feeling, context, metaphor. But with his icebergs, Leveille
has made a dance that even I can't view through internal lenses
of meaning. (This same someone feels that my criticism lacks description
and is more about me than about the dances I watch. But that's another
Well, I do see occasional
associations. For instance, at one point the dancers look like ice
skaters doing compulsory exercises in competition. There are five
male dancers in this piece and one woman. When the men are alone
in groups of three or four, an energy of the locker room arises.
There's always something scary in that for me, something that could
escalate to violence. And I can't squirm away from the somewhat
icky, nostalgic, melancholy lens of desire that a middle-aged homo
sees through when looking at the naked bodies of beautiful boys.
But Leveille has made
it nearly impossible for me to hook any narrative onto his dancers'
bodies and their immaculate acts. This is truly the "pure form and
stark essence" he writes about.
I'm going to have to
lean on Susan Sontag for this one. In memorial of her recent death,
I'm reconsidering "Against Interpretation," her polemic inspired
by minimalism from 1964. Among many other things, Sontag writes:
"Real art has the capacity to make us nervous." And she posits that
interpreting, or "taming," this nervousness is "reactionary, impertinent,
cowardly, stifling." She calls instead for "criticism which would
supply a really accurate, sharp, loving description of the appearance
of a work of art."
So, then, to describe
Leveille's movement vocabulary: There are bursts of physicality
that seem so impossible, you think maybe you blinked and missed
something. Frequently (almost too frequently, some actions are repeated
to dullness), a one-and-a-half revolution tour en l'air lands in
a deep lunge. No staggering, no wobbling. Other jumps end in disjointed,
feral rolls. There is a liberal use of stasis, followed by attacks
as darting as a snake's tongue. The dancers' faces are almost entirely
blank. They are naked. The movement has little filigree, but when
it does (hamster-scrabbling hands, hip-thrust buttock) it looks
absurd, darkly humorous. The dancers touch only to catch each other
or push each other away, and the exceptions are magical: one guy
surprisingly petting another's shoulder. Athletic stances recur
like glyphs in a stone language. These might be gymnasts without
self-congratulation, executing private challenges.
A rather miraculous
moment: two of the men rest in shoulder stands after agonizingly
rolling into them from a floor stretch in second position with their
elbows on the floor. As they tilt sideways ever so slowly (eventually
one foot takes the weight on one side), a third guy (the short one
who looks endearingly elfin and whose hair needs combing) just looks
at them. That's all. He just looks at them. Another: the tall guy
with a tan, one leg behind himin a deep lunge, digs his fingers
into his rib cage as he arches from the sternum, as if he's cracking
himself open. (Okay, I know, I couldn't stop myself from layering
ideas like "elfin" and "cracking himself open" onto those concrete
acts. But the guy's hair really did need combing.)
Marc Parent's lighting
design, which includes a line of fluorescent tubes across the front
edge of the floor, an homage to minimalist sculptor Dan Flavin,
busies itself with cues and cross-fades that punctuate the dance's
glacial pace. Meanwhile, Chopin preludes tinkle off in the corner
somewhere, providing what must be tongue-in-cheek daintiness.
Sontag writes, "The
function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is." How
this dance by Daniel Leveille does what it does, as an experience,
is through its impact on the viewer's multi-layered mechanism of
witnessing. This witnessing evades language, but it resonates deeply
with memory and identity. That is the nature of witnessing. The
dance simultaneously remains fully itself, separate and inexplicable.
I hesitate to imagine that Leveille has created a poetics of the
monolith, wherein each moment, each effort, is appreciated for its
beauty, its ugliness and its clarity. Pure form and stark essence:
each of us interprets it differently.
Daniel Leveille's "La pudeur des icebergs" will be performed
February 8 - 9 and his "Amour, acide, et noix" February 11 at the
Theatre de Vanves in Vanves, France.
Go back to Flash Reviews