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Compagnie Maguy Marin.


Maguy Marin's Gallic concern for the human condition--with liberal inspiration from such thinkers as Descartes, Rousseau and Spinoza--can cause viewers to miss much of the playfulness inherent in her choreography. While the indifference of fate and the rigor of the human condition are very much at the core of Waterzooi (given its New York premiere during this season), whimsy, innocence and pure flights of fantasy are integral to the dance, which takes its title from the name of a Belgian dish "halfway between a soup and a stew."

Blending text, movement and music, Waterzooi is structured around a catalogue of emotions. With academic detachment, Christiane Glik recites excerpts from Descartes's philosophical treatise The Passions of the Soul. At the opposite extreme intellectually is Denis Mariotte's charming score, much of which is played live by the dancers on such instruments as vibraphones, harmonicas, xylophones, and toy pianos, in a powerful metaphor for the serious, sometimes sinister application of innocent pursuits.

Marin explores this image most potently in a sequence where the dancers wear papier miche masks: The soloist sports a sweet, moonfaced grin, like the heroine of Bertolt Brecht's play The Good Person of Szechuan while her cohorts wear the generic guises of animals. Gamboling through a sequence dappled by Eloi Garcia's beautiful lighting, the dancers transport us to the dawn of time, when worship and play, hunger and satiety, life and death, were experienced as a seamless whole. Chairs placed visibly in the wings, where performers sit while waiting for their cues, extend this concept, so that both off- and onstage also appear as one.

Far less chaste are other sections. Preciosa Gil and Thierry Partaud have a thrashingly ambivalent, yet totally erotic, duet. Cathy Polo personifies guilt and confesses to murder as demanded by Isabelle Missal. The subsequent repetition of phrases by a group of men tramping in rigid patterns leaves the implication of genocide. Marin's brutality has a cartoonish ferocity that can be darkly humorous, painful or transcendent. Mychel Lecoq is strip-searched and kicked on his bare backside into a heap on the floor. Naked and sprawling, he recomposes his limbs into a lovely configuration as human dignity vanquishes the squalid affronts of horror.

Dressed in Montserrat Casanova's beige, prototypical streetwear, the cast of Waterzooi is a troupe of workmanlike artists. All shapes and sizes, the performers are united in a steely, versatile technique. In spite of Marin's fiercely modern vocabulary, spectators can also glimpse turned-out hips and arching spines that whisper a long tradition of the danse d'ecole in the troupe's genetic makeup.

May B, Marin's antiheroic homage to Samuel Beckett's theatrical writings, was last seen in New York City in 1986. Monumental shifts in geopolitics since that time diminish some of the impact of the piece. In early sequences, the dancers wear the white, heavily powdered smocks and caps associated with Hamm and Clov of Beckett's Endgame. Roiling and thumping by the cast of twelve send up clouds of dust, like some cosmic detritus that stands for the ultimate end of all human accomplishment. inconsequential gestures are contrasted with great marches across--and over--the front of the stage. The parade is enlivened both by monumental apathy and personal sacrifice.

Beckett's companionable antagonists Pozzo and Lucky wander through in something of a cameo appearance from Waiting for Godot Unchanged, this pair of clowns remain entwined in the rope that visualizes their mutual dependence and abuse. But the world has altered, and now these evocations have an old-fashioned resonance. Beckett's landscape was born out of Cold-War aesthetics. Whether innocent or venal, all of humanity was vulnerable to nuclear holocaust, potential victims of a pinnacle of scientific thought that saw destruction arise from the highest form of creativity. The real teeth in that danger rotted with the melting of the iron Curtain. Today nuclear Armageddon is far less a threat to earth's end than is the voracious gobbling by overabundant populations. Beckett's, and therefore Marin's, victims have now become the enemy, and much of the former pungency is lost.
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Title Annotation:Joyce Theater, New York, New York
Author:Hardy, Camille
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Previous Article:Valery Mikhailovsky's St. Petersburg Male Ballet.
Next Article:Edinburgh International Festival.

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