Review – Dance performances tell a story of loss, anguish and delight

2012-07-02 10:42

That not a single word is verbalised is perhaps why so much more than language can afford us, is communicated by Pudique Acide / Extasis.

The two dance performances at the Transnet Great Hall at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown form a joint production by New Yorker Mathilde Monnier and French choreographer Jean-Francios Duroure. They’ve devised this show as a restaging of works originally created in March 1984 and November 1985 respectively.

The two pieces are united by a physical vitality that the accompanying notes describe as “a commitment to unbridled youth and to a passion for raw existence”.

However, it is in how the dancers manage to communicate the tortured nature of human relations that a refreshing level of profundity is captured. The intimacy of friendship, the generous grace of mutual assistance and the angst that comes with conflict are poetically carried by the choreography.

Notably, for work created in the mid-1980s, when contemporary dance was heavily concerned with formalism, Pudique Acide / Extasis both carry a refreshing attention to narratives.

There’s a story, an allegory of loss and mourning, anguish and delight – especially in Extasis where the two dancers, Sonia Darbois and Jonathan Pranlas, take us through a series of transformations of their characters.

They start with a joyous and sometimes comic exchange that is also a study in the generous use of space.
They then turn to the clever use of lighting and silhouettes – to suggest other presences as the shadows fall against the plain backdrop.

Their gestures and movements are loose, though enough not to lose the hint of physical discipline expected of dance. As the narrative unfolds, they shed their costumes like defeated people fail to carry their burdens and circumstances.

The possessions go, layer after layer or item by item until all that’s left to lose is each another. The lost relationship is then regained, though only as a shadowy ghost or dream of its former version.

All of this happens to the fitting soundtrack of silence, the sound of heavy breath and some Berliner cabaret, the austere Germanic music for a severe and passionate story.

These two dance pieces were devised for this year’s Montpellier Dance Festival in France and now form part of the France-South Africa Season 2012 and 2013.

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