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Flash Review, 7-27: It's Greek to Them
Monnier Misses African-French Connection

By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2000 Terry Hollis

Okay, this is the scenario. I have invited you to a meal in my humble abode. You show up, we talk, eat, have a little java and all is well. Towards the end of the night you notice something funny about me and as you look closer you realize, you don't have the slightest idea who I am. Impossible. Where the hell are you? It's not that it was a bad night, but somebody, somewhere got stood up. Anyway, watching Mathilde Monnier's "Pour Antigone," presented at LaGuardia Concert Hall last night, I couldn't help thinking that the beautiful performers from Burkina-Faso and Ms. Monnier's own group from France are in there, together, to make each other feel at home, but neither one really settles in.

The entire piece takes place at a kind of crossroads. Using revolving corrugated walls that outline the stage, the dancers merge with, separate and interpret each other's language. It's not always clear what they hope to get out of it, or if they are affected at all, but what does come through is an amazing sense of integrity on both parts. As the piece opens, two women occupy opposite corners of the stage and are already engaged in conversation. As the space gradually closes between them, their patter takes on a cadence that begins the pulse for the entire evening. The performers mainly travel in squads and factions. As the first duet ends, another group of dancers burst through the walls upstage and begin a totally different dialogue; before they are done the drummers are nonchalantly strolling on stage to set for the next section. The work has the built-in distinctions of race and of course, technique but, for the most part, the separations end there. Ms. Monnier's strong, literate dancers have no problem giving you the truths about living life in this preconceived universe; even interacting with a power-house like Blandine Yameogo they remain almost locked in their movement patterns.

An almost idealistic world has been set up here, where all of the elements at work display impeccable manner and decorum. Even in the midst of what appears to be absolute madness, there is still a consideration for the fact that there are two elements at work here and the idea isn't to justify the presence of the other but to simply show that they do exist together in this surrogate home. They may not be sure of each other, but they both have the natural right to be there. There is a beautiful moment about midway through the piece that has a dancer almost mummified in white gauze while accompanied by a singer along the edges of the stage. He moves through a Butoh-like solo and you are never sure if this is agony or bliss. This image not only provides the work with a burning center, but it gives us the only moment of emotional realism.

Ms. Monnier has done a good job of distilling and distributing human values. What's good for the first group is good for the second, and even within the ranks there are clear moments of trust and tenderness, but they never last. Just when you think these two factions will settle into this new world together, they fall back into their native tongues and the division in place. Here, that's not a bad thing but if they are spending that much time with one another you want them to leave with something. The work speaks with many different tongues; stark post-modern dance performance, veiled political commentary, all presented with the surety of a well put-together piece of work. But sadly the point was not to fuel the interactions between these two groups, it was simply to get them in the same room.

"Pour Antigone" repeats Friday and Saturday at 8:30 PM. The performers included: Seydou Boro, Dimitri Chamblas, Awa Kouyate, Corinne Garcia, Germana Civera, Joel Luecht, Eszter Salamon, Salia Sanou, Blandine Yameogo, and Balguissa Zoungrana.

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