A Dance review

d'après une histoire vraie - Christian Rizzo (2012)

To transpose a fragile memory into a live performance was Christian Rizzo’s intent for d’après une histoire vraie in 2012. He once felt an overwhelming emotion in a street of Istanbul where he witnessed a traditional dance fugitively performed by a group of men irrupting from nowhere and disappearing shortly after. His creation works as a refined and immensely precise version of that event. It opens in almost total darkness as a first dancer takes off his shoes and enters the stage set: a grey patch of floor with a short part of the cour edge folded at a ninety degree angle upwards. The jardin side has an elevated platform for two massive drum sets. The dancer starts the dance on his own, with slow and sustained movements on the floor, pointing upwards with his arms or legs. The rest of the eight dancers come and join in silence his absorbing dance. From there on the dancers operate in a complex network of interactions where everything flows continuously as if ruled by a tacit organization that provides everyone with equal participation. Hands are kept together in the back, with a slight bow forward when they are not embracing each others’ shoulders or arms. Hands come in helping whoever lies on the floor to be immediately set back on his feet. Everything happens in peace. We recognize that these men have gathered with the exact same intention as an assembly of men from around the Mediterranean Sea. All the performers’ names carry a color from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Turkey or Israel. And what they perform is the reunion of all their traditional dances together into one. After clearing the set from a green plant and a chair – signs of Rizzo’s tastes as a designer, the dance reopens in one continuous organic flow until the end. It is by the way an exploit how the dancers manage its impenetrable and lengthy structure. They are supported by the two drum players with an equally complex psychedelic pattern of rhythm that heightens the overall energy until the finale.

The dance is full of grace, light yet grounded as demonstrated in the shining solo by Felipe Lourenço. Dancers resort to upper-lower as much as light weight, which is an unusual combination and gives an impression of “ploughing a furrow while seeking for elevation”.[1] Indeed this dance is not about virtuosity. This dance is about humility. The humble bow and attitude affected by someone entering the house of God. Shoes are kept off stage. The dancers’ dark long hair, beards and skins evoke early Christian characters, here together performing a reminiscence of traditional ritual dances from their times. A rite that has survived through the ages transmitted from one generation to the next. Rizzo’s reenactment is presented as a formal abstraction of a rite. He indeed abstracted a general class of dance out of the many local varieties of traditional dances from the Mediterranean area. He composed an erudite appropriation, and displayed it with a counterpointing music so as to bring up within our contemporary world new reading possibilities. Since he erased any sign of religious belief, the dance seems devoid of ritualistic purpose. What is left is for them to simply experience the sheer pleasure of dancing together. And for the audience the purest form of contemplation of dance.

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Footnotes

[1] Rizzo 2013. My translation from French.

Sources

Rizzo, Christian. About d'après une histoire vraie. http://www.lassociationfragile.com/christian-rizzo/choregraphe/spectacles/christian-rizzo-choregraphe-spectacles.php?id=98779798