Gigs, dance, art

December 9th, 2009: Boris Charmatz – 50 ans de danse


Trying to clear out my backlog after being sidelined for a while. I actually saw this one twice in three days, but I didn’t mind, because I think it’s a great show, and as it’s a little on the brainy side, a second viewing was nice.

I’ve always thought Boris Charmatz is very smart, but prone to outsmarting himself. Sometimes it feels like he just doesn’t trust dance enough, so he adds other things and often dance is an afterthought if that much. This time the conceptual side of the show was taking a book about Merce Cunningham’s career and going through the pictures in the order they appeared in the book. I don’t know how much his not performing factored into this, but this left it to the dancers to move from one picture to another. That’s more trust in dancers and dance than I’ve ever seen from him. And somehow very fitting as a tribute to Cunningham, in my opinion, because I think his work always struck me as related to pictures. Charmatz has done this show with different casts, but this time they were former members of Cunningham’s company. Some of them actually were in those pictures, so they knew a lot about what took place around and between those. I’d have to see another cast to know what that brought to the show.

Anyway, I think it worked. The book/still origin showed, but it wasn’t an issue. Charmatz wrote he wanted to avoid poses, if that’s true he failed. I’m not sure I want to believe what he writes though. And it doesn’t matter. Because the poses didn’t matter as much as what was taking place in between, except when they were holding those for a while. And there were a few times when they would move as if stuck in those positions, a very blatant play with the constraints of the show that put the lie to those claims of going for pure motion. Having a dancer call out the decade further undermined any slight change the show would have had of taking off from that book, as did having Charmatz turning the pages of the book on the front left of the stage — is that a coincidence that it was the place Cunningham himself would occupy in the company’s studio?

The dancers themselves were probably from different decades, and the very different costumes also went counter to the uniformity that often bothered me in Cunningham’s work. But they shared something as well, an understanding of what took place at those times maybe. Overall, despite the high brow concept, I think it was a very good show, one that took the dance back from the picture perfect book and into more or less aged and imperfect bodies. With all its warts and flaws and its occasional weak moments, the show managed to bring those dance snapshots from the past into the present, and I believe that’s a very proper tribute to Cunningham.


December 25, 2009 - Posted by | Dance | ,

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