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Biennale de la Danse.

Biennale de la Danse Various venues, Lyon, France September 9-30, 2006

So much dance, so little time. With nearly 500 artists from 39 companies, representing 28 cities and 5 continents, the 12th edition of the Bieunale de la Danse rocked France's second-largest city for three weeks.

This year's theme, "Dance in the City," offered a catchall category where anything went (except tutus and, for the most part, pointe shoes). Included were 10 premieres, site-specific performances, samba lessons, a photo exhibition, outdoor film screenings, and a splendid defile. With 320,000 spectators and 4,500 participants decked out in nearly 14 miles of fabric, this year's spectacle was a pitch-perfect intersection of dance, music, fun, and fabulousness.

With the urban jungle focus, there was hip hop galore, with Lyon's Pokemon Crew kicking things off and Berlin's Storm and Rio de Janeiro's Companhia Urbana de Danca serving up their particular blends of popping and locking, the latter also flaunting fine capoeira.

Representing Africa were Compagnie Germaine Acogny (Senegal), Boyzie Cekwana's Floating Outfit Project (South Africa), and Serge-Aime Coulibaly's Faso Danse Theatre (Burkina Faso). Making the most powerful statement, though, was 62-year-old Acogny in her hour-long solo, Tchourai, choreographed by Sophiatou Kossoko.

A regal woman who has said she believes she is the reincarnation of her grandmother, a Yoruba priestess, Acogny began by languidly smoking a pipe. Rising, she inched across the stage, a rectangle that could have been a prairie, magic carpet, or desert. Beautifully lit by Horst Muhlberger, the piece served Acogny well, her mythic moves trancelike. Her arms and splayed fingers flittering, she moved to a haunting score by Etienne Schwarcz that veered from crescendoing violins to serene village sounds. Moments of stasis ceded to a bit of butt wiggling before Acogny made her exit, an ethereal goddess taking measured flight.

Striking a different chord, choreographer/dancer Cekwana and Desire Davids, performed Cut!! The work had nothing new to say, as Cekwana, an erstwhile prodigy of South African dance, attempted to merge his African roots with contemporary movement. A throwback to the '70s, the work featured a pastiche score of soul tunes, the duo donning Afro wigs and moving jerkily. Awkward transitions and bits of unengaging text made the piece self-indulgent and pointlessly retro, more so in that both dancers are movers of the first rank.

On paper, Sydney-based Force Majeure, the first Australian company invited to the Biennale, seemed promising. Founded in 2002, its artistic director Kate Champion was a disciple of DV8 Physical Theatre's Lloyd Newson. Alas, with Already Elsewhere, based on American photographer Gregory Crewdson's images of nature and manmade disasters, the promise remained unfulfilled. A long exercise in less-than-hazardous, risk-oriented dance, its most compelling component was Geoff Cobham's glorious set. A house's roof served as a jumping-off point (literally). But the seven dancers did not create much of an emotional response.

Cie L'Explose (Colombia), though, did provide a visceral experience. Under the artistic direction of Tino Fernandez, nine dancers, including Alexis Calvo, a little person whose moves mesmerized, offered a metaphorical look at death in the form of a "human" bullfight. A European premiere, Frenesi was filled with exciting images of eroticism, pleasure, and pain. Nude men were slathered with oil on metal gurneys, twisting into positions that resembled a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. A duet between Galvo and Marvel Benavides proved both exciting and freakish, Calvo ultimately hanging from a harness on a hook.

For sheer Spanish attitude, nothing came close to Farruquito y Familia, the famed gypsy flamenco troupe, which brought the house down. Farruquito, a hot-blooded young genius with quick-silver feet and hair-tossing charisma, absolutely owned the stage, while his brother and cousin also mustered blazing footwork and arm flourishes.

Other notable performances: a powerful Nacho Duato with his Compania National de Danza; choreographer Frederic Flamand and architect Zaha Hadid's winning collaboration, Metapolis II, for Ballet National de Marseille; and the Lyon Opera Ballet.

Less successful were Kyoto-based Selenographica, in the European premiere of Maho Sumiji's What Follows the Act, and Istanbul-based Noland's Esra Yurttut and Burak Kolcu performing their lackluster Paper Ship, a French premiere. South America was represented by Buenos Aires-based Union Tanguera, featuring the slick but passionless moves of artistic director Esteban Moreno and Claudia Codega in the premiere Tango Vivo. Joao Saldanha's Atelier de Coreografia, from Rio de Janeiro, served up an uninspired octet.

With two costume balls and a myriad of dances, the festival was a paradise. The beauty, emotions, and transformative powers of the art form continually surprise and satisfy. See www.biennale-delyon.org.
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Author:Looseleaf, Victoria
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:756
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