The Jaunty, Witty Show That Scandalized Paris by Jennifer Dunning
One critic slapped another at the Paris premiere of Jérôme Bel's "Show Must Go On." Audience members booed, stormed the stage and demanded their money back. But happy guffaws and giggles greeted the piece on Thursday night at Dance Theater Workshop, when Mr. Bel's company made its American debut.
Mr. Bel may be considered an experimentalist in France, where he performed with Angelin Preljocaj and others before moving on to choreography about a decade ago. He and his dancers might have arrived here trailing pretentious artistic baggage, but "The Show Must Go On" is sly, witty, joyous fun.
Mr. Bel seems to be attempting to reinvent in Europe the Judson Dance Theater movement of the 1960's and 70's, about which he apparently knows very little judging from recent interviews in New York. The Judsonites proclaimed the death of virtuosity and artifice in dance, sweeping them away with a wave of everyday tasks performed by untrained dancers in overalls or wearing nothing at all. The 18 performers in "Show," who include Mr. Bel's sisters, lovers and friends, are dressed in everyday clothes, to be sure, and most of what they do in the piece would not require more than a few lessons in any technique. But they, like their choreographer, are out to charm, however scruffily.
Mr. Bel is fond of little jokes, like bathing the audience in pink light for "La Vie en Rose" and plunging the theater into darkness for "Imagine." The sleepy-looking D.J., seated at an unintrusive onstage console, grabs a solo for himself, set to Tina Turner singing "Private Dancer." In another segment, cast members sing comically inapposite phrases from songs that they alone can hear on their Discman players. There is a hilarious unison group Macarena dance, and the choreography for a group dance to Céline Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On," from "Titanic," wickedly incorporates a hokey and familiar image from the film.
Mr. Bel, who began his study of choreography by reading about dance, performance and semiotics, arranges his performers on stage with authority. He has a first-rate sense of theater. Tender moments, like walks and embraces to Nick Cave singing "Into My Arms," suggest he is also an endearingly old-fashioned humanist.
Each of the vividly individual performers has become something like a familiar friend by the end. But "The Show Must Go On," which takes its title from a song by Queen, only fitfully approaches its high-flown objectives.
For the most part, the effect is of a dance version of a group sing-along. But in one segment the performers, some grinning and some impassive, stare out for a very long time at an audience first seated in darkness, then bathed in house lights and completely visible. The fourth wall does tumble. All that is left is a laserlike connection between eyes on both sides of the stage.
The final performance of "The Show Must Go On" at Dance Theater Workshop is tonight.
I had a blast at it. It had so much humor and the audience was really into it. Before the performance started, my husband nodded at a woman sitting in the row in front of us. "Oh, that's Ann Hamilton over there." A little later he says, "Look, there's a young audience member tonight." We're always on the lookout for kids at arts events. I looked and noticed who her mother was. "That's Michelle Herman! That must be Grace. Michelle's a cool mom."
Plans for going to Philadelphia are being finalized. My mother is excited about watching our dog. She's even more excited at the prospect of staying at the "Crappiest Hotel in the World" aka our apartment, because it's in the city. As long as the tv works and we have running water, she's happy. She'll walk down the street to go to the different restaurants and that's her treat to herself.
My sister-in-law will be here next month. We haven't seen her for a while (she's in Ecuador) and she's supposed to give birth to her first baby in June. The family is horrible about corresponding via email but it certainly gets the job done. When we usually talk on the phone it's at my in-laws house and it's hard to have conversations because they're listening for their turn at the phone. :)
I'm looking forward tonight to seeing The Time We Killed. The director, Jennifer Reeves, has been here this week and she'll do an introduction and a Question and Answer period afterward (I think). We are going out to Barcelona which I've been to one other time. Yum! Yum! Yum!
Saturday night I'm heading to the Short North with my friend from work. We will have dinner and go to the Gallery Hop which I've not really been to in years. You just never know what you might find at a gallery, or who you want to run the fastest from. A former co-worker told me that he and his wife went and had parked by the nearby park. After they were done they went back to their car and found a woman with six kids. Her car had broken down, she didn't have AAA and she didn't have enough money to get them all home by bus. She called a taxi, but they didn't have any taxis that could take seven people so she wasn't about to call back and have two taxis sent. The kids ranged in age from 3 to 11. My co-worker ended up calling AAA to help them out but it was about 11 o'clock at night when everything was said and done.