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Flash Review 1, 12-2: Ça suffit!*
Wim Vandekeybus Abuses his Audience

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider

(Author's warning: This review contains graphic and upsetting images, the fault of the "choreographer"; in order to properly chastise him, evidence must be adduced.)

PARIS -- Silly me; I actually believed the program description for Wim Vandekeybus's 2005 "Puur," which opened Tuesday at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt, when it promised "an act of resistance in the face of the violence of the world." Instead, Vandekeybus gave us a condensed version of the violence of he world, in graphic images on screen (like a man slicing a child's hand off, the blood spurting and the girl screaming), and in the usual fighting-as-dancing rendered live on stage by 13 performers. (The story, incoherently dramatized and generically choreographed, apparently had something to do with a massacre of the innocents.) I was reminded of something Pina Bausch told a 2003 press conference here. Asked why her own works seem to have gotten more elygiac even as the world gets more violent, Bausch explained, "I don't know if it's better to all blow on the same horn about 'How terrible it is,' or if we need an effort to remind us it could be different." Notwithstanding the physical tour-de-force by the dancers, who went non-stop for two hours, spelled only occasionally by the film, "Puur" does not seem to make an effort. Rather, the choreographer has used his considerable dramatic tools and his dancers' often breathtaking facility simply to torture his audience by confronting them with an ugliness we already know about. Where exactly is the resistance?


*Roughly translated: "Enough already!" These words, uttered by one of many fleeing spectators, became the epitaph of last summer's violence-strewn Avignon festival, in which Vandekeybus was implicated. France Soir's Ariane Dollfus might have been referring to "Puur" when she wrote (in my translation), "The real question this year was... that of a violence, even of a masochism too often complacent, which rendered the public complicit in an obvious voyeurism. Admittedly, artists also reveal the world which surrounds us. Still, they must have a distance from this daily violence they should be denouncing, but in which they were too often sprawled, without perspective or analysis."

 
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