Performing Arts: Dance
February 12, 2017
The “Unknown Pleasures” program by CCN – Ballet de Lorraine at the Joyce is “an anonymous program of mystery,” where no one gets credit for the creative aspects; all we know is that four women and one man ranging in age from their 30s to their 70s have contributed something. This is a fun exercise that also has the (perhaps unintended) consequence of shielding the creative team from personalized critique. It is also a way to avoid losing people when they suddenly realize they will see something to Ravel’s Bolero… but more on that below.

The evening began around a wall of colorful transparent cellophane squares, where one woman did tiny isolations in club dance mode while another caresses her from the floor with her flip-flops. Eventually the wall part and we witness perhaps the most exciting piece of the evening, where a large group of dancers in t-shirts (with one big letter on the front and back) and jeans continually turn in place, in a circle, in a kaleidoscopic patterns, and alternating lines, “step turn step step” in an endlessly repetitive sequence with slight shifts that recalled the work of Laura Dean and Lucinda Childs. At one point they line up horizontally and spell out “The World Is Burning” and half a second later they turn around and if you read fast enough, you can make out some funny advice for dealing with these politically fraught times. It was an absorbing display of stamina and humor that was the highlight of the evening.

Transitions sometimes occurred in silence, and with a duet where a pixie female dancer (who stood out in the spinning piece) was partnered like a ragdoll by a very tall guy that get us thinking about uneven relationships, while other couples later joined in, each with its own dynamic but also individual moments that stood out… the girl in black… The next section began with a group of dancers in bright yellow lycra unitards, grouped in a quartet or standing in the corners, facing them. The movement – full of balletic lines, and square angles and tilts – was reminiscent of Cunningham but without much of the inventiveness or risk, making me wish I had seen them perform his Sounddance, which is on the other program.

When one hears the first notes of Bolero, one automatically braces to witness its famous crescendo and how difficult it is to create dance that can match it. This time was no different than most – a series of dancers jumping, walking, and slouching across the stage, eventually clumping together in the middle, repeating a paddle step with an exaggerated forward pelvic thrust, over and over, while a couple breaks out and rolls around on the floor in a-not-so subtle mating. Eventually the dancers’ exaggerated stuffed crotches – both men and women – become apparent underneath their black pants or shorts, as they shoved their bulges at us for an interminable amount of time, in an absurd gesture seemingly devoid of any interesting purpose.

The CCN in the name stands for “Centre Choreographique National” but this program stood out for a surprising lack of fresh choreographic invention. The dancers were engaging yet flagging towards the end of what seemed a bit of a meandering marathon to them, and us.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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