Basquiat meets SAMO, the thousand-faced legend

In 800 Signs

Jean-Michel Basquiat : of the many facets of the artist, few if any are known to the general public, and yet the latter keeps raving about the prices reached by the artworks of the former. But can Samo be bought? Laëtitia Guédon presents SAMO, a masterpiece in terms both of creativity and esthetics. The live music, clarinet, saxophone, transverse flute, supported by drum machines and a human beatbox, complements admirable video art within the limits of a very confined space. The performers of this picturesque ensemble, larger than life, are staged in La Loge, which for this occasion takes the semblance of a New-York underground venue.

More Signs

Pounding bass and neon lights. On a screen erected in the background, jellyfish move through the stages of anamorphosis on the console of the DJ / saxophonist / multi-instrumentalist, the only white man in the show. Voice-over articulates otherworldly sounds that end in inaudible sentences: “I am American. I will have the patience of a king to rise up to my destiny.” This credo, repeated as a chorus over and over, is the work of “Samo”. Samo as in Same Old Shit, the alias used by  Jean-Michel Basquiat. He would sign it along with a crown symbol, like a king who could have reigned over Slavic subjects in the 7th century.

Samo, a tribute to Basquiat, illustration by Araso
Samo, a tribute to Basquiat, illustration by Araso

The text of the play is exceptional, in that it gives life to this child of Brooklyn, born of a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, in a society “suckling on the breasts of television”. He repeats tirelessly “it is raining and “i” the child is in the middle of the street”, alluding to the accident which caused his spleen to be removed. His mother, who paints biblical pictures, is at the same time this person who shapes his artist’s vision, and the madwoman who tried to kill her children by driving her car into a tree “because of what their father had made of [her]”. His birth, he sees it both as a consecration and as a burden. When asked to tell stories “from his land”, he retorts that he is an American (!), hammering his prophecy: “I was born the exact moment life puts on its belt of sunlight”.

To embody such a legend, three performers is hardly enough: the father figure, violent, haunting, who “looks like Charlie Parker”; the rebellious boxer with a mohawk; the dancer, an Apollo-like figure with elfic slenderness, who tries to pry the painter away from his demons, showing him a sky “blue and mineral, as if washed of all stains and impurities, primed for the artist”. Ever conflicting, they are at the same time dramatically inextricable, their endless struggle presiding over the tragic destinies of the one who “wanders in the streets of New York like a dog without a collar”, the one who will fight all his life to “get street art and Afro heads inside of the greatest museums of the world”.

SAMO, A Tribute to Basquiat, is a creation 2016-2017 by compagnie 0,10 at La Loge, until April 14th 2017

Translation from French to English by Mathieu Dochtermann

A Love Supreme: to find the right place

A Love Supreme begins in abrupt solitude and complete silence.

Four danseurs slit the void. Soon, they get to the walls ornamented with wooden panels shaping up the keyboard of a premonitory piano. It falls to a remarkable Thomas Vantuycom to prepare the ground for the dance.

During this long introduction, Thomas stands barefoot and alone under cold spotlights, motionless. The power of this silence roots the audience to the spot.

Thomas Vantuycom in A Love Supreme by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis, illustration © Araso
Thomas Vantuycom in A Love Supreme by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis, illustration © Araso

He steps softly forward, outlines a move, daring to split the air with his arm stretched out. The space around him opens up, the narrow gesture gains amplitude. Limbs in protective rounds evolve in asymmetrical angles; hands progressively look for the ground.

When Coltrane’s jazz chords finally play, the music penetrates the bodies that punctuate every single note, accentuate piano chords in crazy series of petits pas. The embrace and the distance, the self and the ensemble all work to achieve complete corporal freedom.

To create within constraints, to find the right place, the comfortable distance.

To achieve supreme love.

Illustrations © Araso

A Love Supreme was created in 2005 by Anne-Teresa de Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis on the theme of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. The show is re-created for 4 dancers at the Théâtre de la Ville and presented at the Centquatre Paris from April 5th to 9th 2017 within the Séquence Danse Festival.

illustration © Araso

Fear in the state of siege

Should we only remember one thing from Albert Camus’ immense legacy let it be this: a state of siege can only thrive on fear. The cementing, enclaving fear, on which the highest yet barriers are erected but founded on sandy grounds.

When fear goes away so do chains, dictatorship and terror. Yesterday there was Hitler, today there are the algorithms, tomorrow (or is it already here?) an automated thinking pre-processed to tell us who and what to vote, what, how, how much and who to consume.

illustration © Araso
illustration © Araso

By corrupting the mind like gangrene, fear can be hard to beat. Albert Camus give us the one and only possible remedy: amputation without compromise.

Let’s not underestimate the power of human will. Let’s never forget the sovereign inalienable freedom of each individual to say no. This sharp and indisputable “no” against which that very few stand firm.

On the eve of France’s presidential elections… to detach oneself from the most boring table tennis competition of the 5th Republic and to take the time to re-read Camus’ Plague.

L’Etat de Siège (The State of Siege), the 1948 play by Camus de 1948, was staged by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota at the Espace Cardin of the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris from March 8th to April 1st 2017.

Auguri and other stories : contemporary dance in a state of emergency

In 800 Signs

Red alert. Dance is in a state of emergency. From Avignon to Paris Opéra Garnier, from Montreal to São Paulo, entire dance companies just can’t seem to stop running. From a breathless run to a heavy walk it’s always at life-or-death-matter speed. Where to? What for? Headlong rush, exodus, momentum: there is a growing trend in the world of contemporary ballet whereby bodies just race right ahead like hope is not dead. Somewhere, over the rainbow lays the centre of the universe, the core of our humanity. Olivier Dubois just presented his show Auguri in Chaillot by the Ballet du Nord of whom he is the director. A rebel with a cause as far as we can tell.

More Signs

In Maguy Marin in Paris Opera Garnier in April 2016 with Les Applaudissements ne se mangent pas, the phenomenon couldn’t go unnoticed. It wasn’t discreet either in Marie Chouinard’s Avignon’s French première of Soft Virtuosity, Still Humid, On the Edge, or in Guilherme Botelho’s Sideways Rain at the Monfort theatre in November 2016. Lately dance has amounted to large miles of running. Drawing parallel lines or diagonals these choreographers made people sprint in circles, squares, you name it. And there is no such thing as chance, is it? It was hard by the way to sit there watching Olivier Dubois’s Auguri and not think of Maguy Marin, whose 2003’s Umwelt was shown again at the occasion of the Festival d’Automne à Paris in 2015. One of her other major creations,  BiT, was featured again last February by the Théâtre de la Ville at the Rond-Point. Just like in BiT, the bodies in Auguri end up trickling down along sloping sidewalls.

Olivier Dubois, Auguri, Chaillot, illustration © Araso
Olivier Dubois, Auguri, Chaillot, illustration © Araso

Auguri is everything. It’s the beginning and it’s the end. In Italian, “Auguri” means wishes, usually -but not only, in a positive way. For Olivier Dubois it’s the end of a cycle. It started in 2000 with Révolution, a pole dance ballet on Ravel’s iconic bolero, followed by Rouge (2011) a solo by a golden mini-dressed Olivier Dubois up on a pair of high red heels, and Tragédie (2012) for which his entire company was running all-over the stage in the nude. « The race of a man towards the absolute… The run-up, the quest for new horizons! » are Olivier’s reported words in the show’s brochure.  « It’s a terrible crossing, (…) a protest of the living ». So this search for hope does exist in the end. « The quest for our humanity is our purpose in this world. »

Auguri is this urge to live, to stop intellectualizing. It’s a manifesto for physical sensations. Bodies dash off as some ballistic missile was going after them- their lives depend on it.  They bump into each other, jostle each other knocking one in the process. They fight, clutch, grasp living the moment a thousand per cent. In the end, we want to agree with Olivier Dubois’s conclusion that « It’s urgent nowadays to replace the body, the human, at the centre of the essence of the world because our vitality and our life depend on it! »

Auguroni, Olivier.

Illustration © Araso
Auguri by Olivier Dubois interpreted by the Ballet du Nord was presented in Chaillot from March 24th to 27th 2017.

Amala Dianor: the body and the self

Man Rec. Only me. Wolof, Senegal, back to the origins.

Hip-hop. Contemporary dance. Absolute dance.

Music. Electronic ethnic modern, with strong bass.

So here is the man. Standing in his socks, sitting, lying, on his head, on his hands and back onto his feet again. Leaping up he attacks, chest sticking out, with his arms spreadeagled Forsythe style. Bending his knees, crouching, one hand to shield himself from an imaginary rabid dog – or the devil.

Amala Dianor, Man Rec, illustration © Araso
Amala Dianor, Man Rec, illustration © Araso

The scene is magnificent, as in worthy-of-a-series-of-fast-action-artistic-shots magnificent. Light runs through the drops of sweat spouting from the smooth forehead, overlooking a pair of ever impassible almond-shaped eyes. The self-satisfied mind surprises itself thinking that those pearls of water somehow symbolize the effort of the travelled path, from Senegal to Angers. There is no such thing.

There is just him, a fabulous dancer, gifted, harmonious, able to put styles, times and genres altogether seamlessly.

Two beats. Two chest clicks. One heartbeat. This was Man Rec by Amala Dianor. Boom.

Man Rec is a solo choreographed and danced by Amala Dianor, seen within the Sequence Danse Festival in 104 on March 17th et 18th 2017.

Marco Berrettini, iFeel4, illustration © Araso

iFeel4: joy and disappearance of the stage as we know it

black elevated sets, like 2 workbenches or 2 table tennis tables. The audience takes place everywhere on the floor including the spaces in-between them.

Marco Berrettini appears in a classy shirt and elegant trousers. With a feline leap he propels himself on top of one of the promontories. On the twin table across from his, accomplice Samuel Pajand sings and plays the piano. Marco begins a circular, aerobic move that he’s going to repeat tirelessly for the next hour and 15 minutes.

Samuel’s sound make children from the CRR d’Aubervilliers – La Courneuve arise from the crowd where they were lying. In English and German, a prowess for such a young crowd, they sing after him lyrics from les Misérables, Rilke, the Pajand/Berrettini duo (fabulous Dijnn Dijnn), Carl Jung and Hermann Hesse. Emoji-masks, circular strolls and diluvian rains (which end up causing a real flood soaking one of the young artists) nothing stops the budding crew.

Marco Berrettini, iFeel4, illustration © Araso
Marco Berrettini, iFeel4, illustration © Araso

It is thus in a joyful questioning that the iFeel series comes to an end. The simplicity of the show and the true feelings it conveys -including happiness, alleluia! betrays some serious work done beforehand. Bravo.

iFeel4 is a creation by Marco Berrettini seen at the CND March 15th & 16th 2017

Choreography and dance
Marco Berrettini
Summer music (Marco Berrettini and Samuel Pajand)
Piano and voice
Samuel Pajand
Set design
Victor Roy
Costumes and accessories
Séverine Besson
Stage and lighting management
Pierre Montessuit
Filière voix du CRR d’Aubervilliers – La Courneuve directed by Madeleine Saur
Alya Ait Abdesselam, Bénédicte Badibanga-Semzedi, Daniel Basset, Léo Cabuk, Olivia Diakabana, Camille Epain, Ketsia Jude Ilanthiraiyan, Sanata Wendy Fofana, Hawa-Emeline Gitras, Yilan Lounas, Nadira Maoulana, Alice Marion, Cynthia Matanchandran, Clarisse Mputu, Lydia Nait Tahar, Alban Rascalon, Luc Seka-Ursulet, Rebecca Tranca, Ancelin Tridant, Ilena Ruoyi Xu, Elena Xu, Angie Yahiaoui, Martine Zou, Mu Ti Zou

Assistant to costume director
Atelier Madame, Lou Masduraud
Tutu Production