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Review, 2-23: So very far to go
Larbi looks for the horizon
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider
Photo copyright GTG/Mario
PARIS -- I wonder. When
your country is defending its values by shoving tubes up the noses
and into the stomachs of prisoners it seems to think are guilty
until they are never given a chance to prove they are innocent,
and when your state is arguing about the most humane way to kill
someone on your behalf, can dance -- can art -- really make a difference?
Does it even matter? And for all the sincere artists who want to
address these dire times and that diablo playing havoc with our
values and wreaking chaos on the world, does any of them really
have the perception and the talent to grapple with it in way that
will reach people? Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is trying. Boy, is he trying.
In his 2003 "Foi," an eye-patched woman in red white and
blue boxing shorts lashed out at everyone, while a transvestite
church lady began by preaching moral values and ended by collapsing
into sobs. I resisted the stereotype of a post-9/11 America, but
by last fall, when Larbi and Akram Khan were depicting
two cousins afraid to help a woman take her dead husband off a train
because they might be implicated -- even as they realized the implications
of their abstention -- I wasn't accusing Larbi of over-simplifying
In "Loin" (Far), which
premiered Wednesday at the Theatre National de Chaillot on the Ballet
du Grand Theatre de Geneve, hope is a fragile wisp balanced on the
precise feet of an upside-down female dancer in a short kimono,
as she arrests her windmilling legs an instant in the air, knees
akimbo, before tumbling down over the back of her male partner.
(Yanni Yin, fine throughout the evening, here paired with the eloquent
Gregory Deltenre.) This duet is painful -- not because of the rigorous,
tumble-full choreography, but because it is so fleeting; we are
hardly surprised when the pair comes to a rest, standing, connected
only by their heads, their panting audible to the audience, before
collapsing as the corps rushes on to complain, albeit humorously,
about the travails of touring in China. We laugh as in unison they
recite a colloquialism-studded history of the scorpion-dogged trip,
but we stop laughing when, later, a woman tries to recount her story,
in Portuguese perhaps, and the crowd dissipates, alienated and disinterested.
At first I saw a weakness
in the repeated motif of performers tumbling butt in air -- a more
rubbery version of David Dorfman's patented upside-down V formation
-- simply because it's Larbi's favorite movement when working on
himself and I'd like to see him apply his prodigious mind to alternatives.
But now I can imagine that this is what it's like when you're a
bicultural, black and white creator trying to find a way in, around,
and maybe even out of the troubles. Your foothold on earth feels
du Grand Theatre du Geneve in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's "Loin."
Photo copyright GTG/Mario del Curto, and courtesy Ballet du
Grand Theatre de Geneve.
In the final sequence, a
man lugs around two male partners, then eventually the whole 21-person
ensemble, before gently coaxing them into a pile which he mounts.
As one of the 'rocks' trembles in its arms, we know his support too
is tenuous as he stands with a foothold likewise tentative, only perhaps
a moment to try to see into a horizon, any horizon, before he falls
back to our tortured earth.
"Loin" continues through
Saturday, on a program which also includes another airy and forgettable
New Age ballet from Saburo Teshigawara and yet another butchery
of Bach, this time from the messy contemporary choreographer Andonis
Foniadakis. My advice: skip out at the pause before Foniadakis and
gird up for the after-intermission Larbi.