The apocalypse according to Hofesh Shechter

Grand Finale sounds like an apotheosis. In reality it’s a compilation, some enlivened Shechterian abstract. The Israeli choreographer gathered all of his distinguishing features including his very Rabbi Jacob-esque moves in this testament. War and violence, both recurring themes since Political Mother in 2010 are explicitly referred to through images of terrorism. There are very few moments without bodies dropping or corpses being dragged. In case one had forgotten what the world looks like in this early XXIth century, Grand Finale is a heavy reminder.

Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale, illustration by Araso
Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale, illustration by Araso

One can argue that Hofesh Shechter doesn’t renew himself much. But is it necessary? Upon seeing these bodies convulsing over highly saturated basses, this oven-sky night club, these dancers over performing a physical exuberance, one  is tempted to think they could die after spending just one night dancing like that.

Over the thick black walls ready-to-print gravestones, beyond the live orchestra hopping on stage in a hotchpotch of sounds of the world: there they are. Precious moments of wild, tribal and uncompromising dance.  

Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale, world premiere in La Villette with the Théâtre de la Ville until June 24th 2017 

Illustration © Araso

Ali Charhour's ballet of shadows

Each and every move happens on the dot in this performance. Everything is under control yet reeks of freedom.

With May he rise and smell the fragrance, Ali Charhour glorifies the voice of a woman in mourning while playing with the codes of a both traditional and modern Arabic world. She sings the lamentations as her son (Ali Charhour), still warm, is laying convulsing at her feet. Her phenomenal vocal spectrum covers lullabies and the barking of a bitch with equal grace. The body is uncensored, but by its own hair. The thick, black hair of stunning Hala Omran cascades down her naked breasts in the same way that Abed Kobeissy’s covers his face. The latter forms the musical Two or The Dragon with Ali Hout, also performing on stage with his hair down to lower back. 

Hala Omran in May he rise and smell the fragrance by Ali Charhour, illustration © Araso
Hala Omran in May he rise and smell the fragrance by Ali Charhour, illustration © Araso

Traditional dances find a second life nested in Ali Charhour’s frail yet grown masculine pelvis. His slender silhouette beats the floor to the rhythm of the percussions playing live or to the silence of his own body hitting the surface.

A series of incredibly poignant images are put in depth of field with cinematographic aesthetics thanks to a brilliant kaleidoscopical light design.

Somewhere between dream, death, femininity and poetry, a male raises from of the ashes. 

Performance seen on June 6th 2017 at the Théâtre de l’Aquarium within the June Events Festival.

Nicht Schlafen: Alain Platel's plea for the 21st century

The style of Alain Platel’s dance company, the “ballets C de la B”, has grown so familiar we tend to forget that once upon a time the Belgian choreographer was starting off as a self-taught-man. Those pelvis, legs and feet are the anchor of explicit movements, those arms cutting through the air, those grabbing, caressing and tearing hands are as many shades of the sublime.  

Nicht Schlafen plays with all of the above-mentioned codes. By way of introduction, please find attached some torn gunny  walls and a strange altar of dead horses. The decor makes a unique time zone happen, where the early years of an uncertain and shaky 20th century and the beginning of this century with its load of bucked up nationalisms, Trumps, Daesh and Brexit overlap.

Nicht Schlafen, Alain Platel, illustration Araso
Nicht Schlafen, Alain Platel, illustration Araso

Steven Prengels’s musical landscapes, the dangling mikes amplifying mouvements on the set and the beasts gasping beyond the grave create panoramas for archaic beauties and anxiety. The implicit words of historian Philipp Blom about Europe between 1900 and 1914 resonate through Gustav Mahler’s most famous symphonies including the masterful tear-filling 5th.

One could not have dreamt of a better way to re-open MC93 after the venue had shut down for three years to undergo major transformations. Those caravagesque images, flamboyant bodies, tribal incantations sung and knocked on the floor by voracious animals with absolute abnegation lay the foundations for tomorrow. 

Nicht Schlafen, performance seen at MC93 in Bobigny between May 24th and May 27th 2017.
Currently on a European tour

Claire Vivianne Sobottke portant la robe cheveux dans Until our hearts stop de Meg Stuart - illustration Arasao

Meg Stuart’s ode to the skin

Meg Stuart’s creations are usually as aesthetically striking as they are committed.

«Until our hearts stop has been built on touch and contact» says the choreographer by way of introduction. And we might as well stop here.  In this piece created in Munich in 2015, nudity enables six performers to touch, smell, and taste the other to intoxication. It’s on the verge of sexuality.

«Until our hearts stop has been built on touch and contact»

Indeed, this a piece about intimacy rather than sexuality. People running around on stage in the nude, playing with each other’s genitals, smacking each other sighing with pleasure, the catharsis effect is a guarantee. Live jazz music framed by heavy velvet curtains places the scene somewhere in between a private club, a playground and a cabaret.

Claire Vivianne Sobottke wearing the hair dress in Meg Stuart's Until our hearts stop - illustration Araso
Claire Vivianne Sobottke wearing the hair dress in Meg Stuart’s Until our hearts stop – illustration Araso

Meg Stuart’s definition of intimacy starts with caring. It involves a serious amount of risk-taking, letting go and giving in. The audience is invited to join in and bond with the band sharing a cigarette, a piece of clay, cake and whisky, all of this being part of the show. It ends on one question: who wants to take care of us?

Until our hearts stop was seen at Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers between April 26th and 30th 2017.

Le jour de la bête, live sketching, Araso

A collective pleasure

« Strength, balance, courage and common sense » is the motto of Spanish castellers, those Catalan performers known for their human towers. Aina Alegre’s latest creation finds her origin at the foot of those towers. Except that they look more like human individual performances and overlapping trembling bodies.

« Strength, balance, courage and common sense »

Le Jour de la Bête, features a dancer like a young horse snorting crazily like a young horse beating its hooves, rearing up and down on a slippery sandy floor. There are some individuals, a group and some flamenco. One can feel the (confusing) diversity of both influences and quests converging to climax: collective pleasure and childlike bursts of laughter.

Le jour de la bête, live sketching, Araso
Le jour de la bête, live sketching, Araso

It seems natural that Aina Alegre would build her piece around the notion of hearth, «this place where the fire burns». An attractive, warm fire where things merge and transform.  « The pyre is a companion for evolution » according Gaston Bachelard’s The Psychoanalysis of fire. A fire necessary to any creative processes, a fragile development where anything can surface.

Performance seen at the CDC Carolyn Carlson on April 27th 2017.

In situ live sketching © Araso

Kaori Ito Hiroshi Ito by Araso

Time is art's raw material

In 800 Signs

« Why am I always afraid to lose something? » « Why am I always stressed? » « Why do I feel lonely even when I am happy? » « What am I looking for in art? » « What does it mean to expect a baby? »

The audience doesn’t pay much attention to the recorded voice to begin with. People after people stop chatting and head after head turns to the stage. How many people ask themselves the same questions? How many times a day? The funny voice goes on tickling the clichés: « Why do people tell me I am Vietnamese when I’m tanned? »

A three-months pregnant Kaori Ito performs her own work of art, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, which translates into I dance because I am afraid of words. She dances alongside her father, visual artist Hiroshi Ito who hasn’t decided to grow old just yet. Since the piece’s early days in 2014, he’s only got younger, more energetic, slightly thinner if anything.

The Japanese choreographer introspects her own path both as a woman and a dancer between Japan, the US and France where she finally settled in 2003.

More Signs

To tell her story without words she goes back to nursling stage. Crawling onto the floor, her faced covered in a baby paper masy, she screams like the infant trying to find their balance up to a vertical posture. Her body was shaped very early by European dance training, placing its core «a lot higher than for regular Japanese people».

The torsions of her body, her joints, even her toes betray the hardship of elaborated practice and the inevitable load of suffering that comes along with it. As she frowns and cries, it seems that her own skin is about to crack open. Learning relentlessly, perfecting her craft across three continents and confronting radically opposed methods has probably given Kaori Ito her distinctive cat-like yet festive graceful moves.

« Why do I feel lonely even when I am happy? »

Meanwhile, a slender Hiroshi leaps up from sitting straight contemplatively on a chair. Swinging around on a light foot, he dances subtly with a smile. As a sculptor he conceived the show’s scenography, dominated by a black nylon monolith in the shape of a giant cactus. But not a single thorn will come between the pair. A lifting of the veil reveals a pile of chairs, making the tension drop. If this is what fear looks like, if this is what death really is then there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a living impulse, a legacy from a father to his daughter.

Hiroshi et Kaori Ito, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, illustration © Araso

Hiroshi et Kaori Ito, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, illustration © Araso

Calling out to her own father, asking questions such as «Why do you smoke? » « How many polyps did they remove from you? » « Why do you eat at three in the morning? » « How much longer are you going to live? » is a way for the young woman to re-establish contact with someone she’s gone so far away from. It’s also her challenging the authority of the father, going as far as switching roles. The daughter commands a « sushi » « miso soup » « Champs Elysées » « Madonna » or even a « Michael Jackson » dance, and the father obeys hilariously.

The memory of the bodies, words recorded on tapes, give to the notion of time some unprecedented density, Proustian even. A tangible material, time sculpts the sublime pas de deux between father and daughter, suspended with insane intensity.

Kaori Ito, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, at the Théâtre de la Ville – Espace Pierre Cardin until May 11th 2017.

Illustration © Araso