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Flashback, 1-20: Performance, Protest, & Peel
Huynh Hunts, Jobin Swims, & Hoghe Springs at Montpellier Danse '04
By Laurie Uprichard
Copyright 2004 Laurie Uprichard
Photography by Nicolas
(Editor's Note: To
celebrate five years of being online, The Dance Insider is revisiting
its Flash Review Archives. This piece originally appeared
on August 3, 2004. Emmanuelle Huynh and Nicolas Floc'h's "Numero"
received its Paris premiere last night at the Centre Pompidou, where
it continues through tomorrow night.)
MONTPELLIER, France --
We're sitting in Montpellier's small Hangar Theater in the dark...
for several minutes.... It's really dark -- darker than would be
legal in New York. (Where's the Exit sign?) From the audience's
right comes a popping sound, then a whooshing sound crosses the
space. The "arrow" with a dayglo green wand sticks to the back wall.
The next arrow hits the stage right wall. They alternate until there
are patterns of dayglo that evoke constellations. The lights slowly
come up and you see that large pieces of cardboard lean against
these walls. This opening scene of Emmanuelle Huynh and Nicolas
Floc'h's "Numero" (Number) is fascinating. Since her first work,
"Mua," Huynh has been interested in darkness and the tension it
creates. "Numero" goes on to explore almost circus-like "numbers."
Floc'h, a visual artist, shuffles around inside a cardboard box
while Huynh flicks fishing rods at it. She threads long "swords"
through holes in the box. She is a magician dressed in a cat suit
with high-heeled boots on which she strides purposefully, rhythmically.
She's almost an Emma Peel look-alike.
Huynh in Huynh and Nicolas Floc'h's "Numero." Photo copyright
Nicolas Floc'h and courtesy Heymann, Renoult Associees for the
Though there's not really
any dance in this work of Huynh's, her strong, clear presence belies
her training. In addition, the irony is subtle, supremely intelligent,
and, in a way, very humorous. There's a definite comment on spectacle,
the use of tricks in performance, and the idea of the performer
as someone who can fool the audience.
Gilles Jobin's "Under
Construction" was performed at the Theatre de Grammont, in an unattractive
suburb of Montpellier to which the audience is bused. Ten minutes
into the work, a disturbance begins. First we think it's just some
late arrivals. But the lights come up and the group of mostly men
with a few women and children walk down to the stage. The house
lights come up. (Are the technicians in league with this group?
Everyone's thoughts go back to 2003, when the festival was canceled
due to strikes by the Intermittents. See Paul Ben-Itzak's coverage.) The audience is stirring and talking among
itself so I don't catch everything the man on stage says -- but
it's clear that he's angry that Montpellier Danse gets more of the
local budget than the housing situation. (Later I learn that a family
is out on the street after its apartment burned and the city won't
give them funding to relocate.) Given that this is France, a discussion
ensues. Several speakers express solidarity but remind the interlopers
that perhaps this audience is not the most useful to address (probably
half locals and on their side, the other half from abroad). Finally,
the general manager of the festival persuades them to leave and,
after a pause, the performance resumes from the beginning. Later
that night there's a police presence outside the Cours des Ursulines,
a venue in the center of Montpellier.
dramatic interruption of the performance was more compelling than
the performance itself. Jobin, a Swiss choreographer who has been
based in London, explores many of the concerns of the Judson-era
choreographers, adding a bit of contact improvisation. His work
is often task-oriented and the movement is pedestrian. "Under Construction"'s
cast of seven is dressed in colorful pants and shirts which they
remove midway through the piece, and put back on toward its end.
The stage is large and open with no wings or props, so the bright
colors of the pants and shirts that have been left on the floor
essentially become the decor. The oddest moment comes when the dancers
"dive" under the marley and "swim" across the stage, causing funny
lumps in the floor, eventually emerging at another break in the
The highlight of three
fantastic days in Montpellier (part of a research trip for the France-USA
Dance Partnership. See Paul's coverage.) that included seven performances, meetings
with five artists, and several meetings with colleagues, was Raimund
Hoghe's "Rite of Spring." Hoghe, a long-time dramaturg with Pina
Bausch, is a master of emotional subtlety. The work, a duet with
a young athlete, was almost too moving to describe. In addition,
Philippe Decoufle's "Iris" was beautiful and intriguing; Anne Lopez
is a bright young artist to follow -- her experience teaching autistic
children informs her work, and there is some similarity to Remy
Charlip in the way she has constructed her piece; and Hamid Benmahi's
solo "Chronic(s)" (which we only saw on videotape) is an autobiographical
work by a dancer whose background includes hip-hop, classical ballet,
and training at the Alvin Ailey school -- another one to watch out
(Editor's Note: To read more about Emmanuelle Huynh and Raimund
Hoghe on the Dance Insider, just enter their names in the search
engine window on the DI Home page.)
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