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Festival International de Danse, Palais des Festivals and Theatre Palais Croistte, Cannes, France November 24-December 1, 1993.

If you can't be the biggest, why not the best? In order to give the Cannes International Dance Festival, which is relatively small as such events go (one week, thirteen performances), a distinctive personality, artistic director Yorgos Loukos has decided to concentrate on premiering works by both emerging and established choreographers.

Whether this policy will eventually lend the festival the cachet it desires remains to be seen. Though Loukos has followed a similar format with success in his role as director of Lyon Opera Ballet, most of the new works presented by young dancemakers during his second year in Cannes were duds. It was left to more mature, world-renowned artists such as Lucinda Childs, Nacho Duato, and Mats Ek to come up with premieres that were actually worth keeping in the repertory. In addition, Bill T. Jones, with his powerful and deliberate new After Black Room, and Susan Marshall, with the gorgeous Untitled (Detail) from 1992, demonstrated, all on their own, why New York City dance has a worldwide audience.

The most stirring work presented at the festival, however, and one of the most thought-provoking dances I've seen anywhere in a long time, was Waterzooi by Maguy Marin. The premise of the dance is simple, but the realization is subtle and complex: With a company member narrating from the sidelines, the cast of thirteen illustrates, one by one, a series of emotions. The catalogue begins with frustration, proceeds through joy and sadness to anger, and concludes with love.

Some of the scenes are funny, some touching, and two are chilling: with no trace of emotion, a young woman wearing jeans numbly recounts a murder while a matron in a fur coat barks out comments; later, a middle-aged man is brutally interrogated. These episodes are appropriately horrific, but most of Marin's scenes are compassionate, even tender, observations of the human condition. Many scenes are comical as well. At one point, for instance, a woman wearing a mask that manages to make her look both smug and rather charming dances a little jig before a lineup of her equally self-satisfied neighbors--all of whom wear cow masks and hold cowbells. Later, there's an exquisite double pas de deux performed to the unlikely but effective combination of toy piano, drum, and triangle. Performed on a bare stage, with the cast not only dancing but also playing the music (by Denis Mariotte) and changing the few sparse set pieces, Waterzooi is a quiet masterpiece.

Marin's work bridges the ocean separating a great deal of French and American contemporary dance. To my eyes, Waterzooi looks "European," minus that layer of self-conscious theatricality that obscures the dancing in so many works made in France. I think this is because Marin understands structure and pacing. She knows when to let the movement stand on its own and when to toss something else into the mix.

Most of the younger choreographers, French and American, represented in Cannes understood little of this--they just kept tossing. The one who got closest to something an audience could sit through without squirming was Bruno Jacquin, who has worked with both Roland Petit and Rosella Hightower. Accompanied by everything from Debussy to Britten to Reich, Le Miroir d'Echo ("Echo's Mirror") evoked the narcissism of eighties high society--sort of a French Bonfire of the Vanities done Dance Theater Workshop-style.

Lucinda Childs demonstrated her own mastery of structure with Impromptu, a premiere commissioned by the festival in honor of her company's twentieth anniversary. As two mirrored balls twirled diamonds of light across a black backdrop and the amazing harpsichordist Elisabeth Chojnacka played furiously, three couples, posed in ballroom position, punished the parquet. The whole thing was as light as a champagne bubble, and just as delightful. Is this Childs's answer to Nine Sinatra Songs? Darker in every way was Concerto, premiered in Paris earlier in the month. Substantial, and almost sinister, the dance was given a high-powered performance by the remarkable Childs dancers.

It was fascinating to see the enthusiastic reaction of French audiences to the local premieres of works by Nacho Duato, from Spain, and Mats Ek, from Sweden. If the nations of the European Union agreed this forcefully all the time, the continent would be a superpower. Most of the homegrown product in France doesn't look anything like the high-octane Duende, Coming Together or Rassemblement ("Reunion"), by Duato, or the exhilarating Pres Insenses ("Mad Meadows"), by Ek. Though these two dancemakers have more stylistic differences than similarities, each trusts movement to deliver the kick: If you want to feel the kinetic rush of beautiful bodies in flight, go see Duato's Compania Nacional de Danza. For a different view of Spanish life, go instead to Ek's cockamamy Carmen for Cullberg Ballet and revel in a spirited and gutsy heroine who's more than equal to Don Jose and Escamillo.

Considering the range of work offered at the Cannes festival, it's refreshing to discover that, as in its eight previous years, the event was largely subsidized by the city itself. What an enlightened arts policy for a resort community located in a politically conservative region! Can we look forward to Beverly Hills--the sister city of Cannes--inviting this caliber of artists to a dance festival of its own?
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Author:Parks, Gary
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1994
Previous Article:Group Motion Dance Company, Group Motion Theatre, Philadelphia, December 9-12, 1993.
Next Article:Oliver: a Smith of Smiths.

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