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Emanuel Gat Dance in Gat's "Brilliant Corners." Photo copyright Emanuel Gat.

Copyright 2011 Laurie Uprichard

MONTPELLIER, France -- The title of "Brilliant Corners," Emanuel Gat's latest work, was inspired by a Thelonius Monk Album from 1966, three years before Gat was born in Israel. Although Gat said at his press conference, prior to the work's French premiere July 2 at the Montpellier Danse Festival, that he had spent hours with the music (and that he also really liked thinking about the idea of "brilliant corners"), he himself composed the score to the piece. The dance opens with the ten performers (six men, four women), dressed in everyday clothes, standing in a clump, most of them with their backs to the audience. An atonal soundscape accompanies the opening sections and fades away after a time, almost without being noticed. A rectangular "playing field" is defined by down lighting from on high in the gorgeous outdoor theater of l'Agora (the former Cour des Ursulines, renovated and renamed last year as part of the Cité internationale de la Danse that also includes studios and artist apartments for both Montpellier Danse and the National Choreographic Center of Montpellier). A black drop upstage both limits the space and hides the arches of the former convent. It could be a playground, a parking lot, or some sort of streetscape where this gang has met up. Throughout the hour-long piece, the dancers enter and leave the space and work in unison, in canons, in split groups, in smaller trios and duets, or all together. There are lots of changes in level, handstands, big arm and leg sweeps, turns and jumps. There is not, however, a lot of partnering, so when two dancers do come together, it seems almost like a rush of affection. The performers are technically excellent; their training is clearly strong and there seem to be hints of hip-hop within some of the men's use of a soft melting through the feet. If they're not dancing, they're watching each other carefully, whether from within the playing field or from the sides of the stage. When music returns, it is a less jarring piano and percussion instrumentation. A final solo precedes the last image of eight dancers lined up standing against the upstage wall with two sitting slightly downstage right of the group.


Emanuel Gat Dance in Gat's "Brilliant Corners." Photo copyright Emanuel Gat.

Throughout "Brilliant Corners" I found myself wondering where it was going, how was it developing, what was the arc. There really wasn't an answer to these questions, engendering the next of whether that matters, or why we should care. Why should we care about an arc? Or, why should we care about this group of dancers enacting, with rigor and precision, some sort of game, a game that clearly has a set of invisible rules? 24 hours later, as I write this, I am less concerned about the dramaturgy; rather I remember with pleasure the strength of the dancers and their wonderful use of that space on the stage.

Gat has been based in France since 2007 and has been creating a body of work that has been seen throughout France, across Europe and, in the U.S., at the American Dance Festival, Jacob's Pillow and the Lincoln Center Festival. He received a New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) award for his 2006 Lincoln Center Festival program comprising the works "Winter Voyage" and "Rite of Spring." He has been welcomed in France with support from the Ministry of Culture and from BNP Paribas, a major sponsor of this work. "Brilliant Corners" premiered in Venice at the end of June and this was only its second outing. It may yet settle a bit. The piece can be seen at ADF through Saturday and in Europe through the summer and fall, including October dates in London at Sadler's Wells during Dance Umbrella.


Laurie Uprichard was director of the Dublin Dance Festival from 2007 to 2011, programming four festivals, overseeing its transition to an annual festival, expanding its international profile, and building its local outreach. She was executive director of Danspace Project from 1992 to 2007 and is an avowed Francophile.


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