Hodgepodge: reviews of Nora Chipaumire + Souleymane Badolo, Balanchine’s “Danses Concertantes” and “Who Cares?,” and Jerome Bel’s self-portraits of other people

I have been slow to post my Financial Times reviews. So here are three that have little to do with each other.

Earlier this month, the fiercely independent choreographers Nora Chipaumire–admired for solo outings and for her dancing with the New York-based Urban Bush Women–and her husband, Souleymane Badolo–whose recent piece at Danspace was bewitching–offered their first foray into joint choreography, I Ka Nye (You Look Well), a portrait of transnational union (no less). 

In this Financial Times review, I admire and complain:

In Mali, you say “I ka nye” to praise an individual for being well put together or a couple for being well matched. But the lovers in this hour-long dance-drama commissioned by Dance New Amsterdam were not from Mali. Nora Chipaumire hails from Zimbabwe, Souleymane Badolo is Burkinabè, and the Malian expression only suited them when they were faking it – squeezing into a picture frame, with a fist around the bouquet they had been shredding all over the stage, to say “cheese” and freeze.

bigpicture.JPG Photo by Elle Chyun.

Chipaumire and Badolo organised this first joint choreographic effort around division – between his west Africa and her southern Africa, his French and her English, his style of contemporary dance and hers. But they left out the similarities that would have made these differences matter. I Ka Nye lacked romance.

With awards to her name and a well-established troupe in Burkina Faso to his, they have proved capable choreographers and beautiful dancers – and here they did so again. In opening solos, she inched a long leg along the floor before lunging on to it. She scalloped the air with even longer arms. He circled his wrists like fireflies in a jar and descended to his knees to place his forearms along the floor as carefully as implements in a tea ceremony. Though Badolo was more fleet and Chipaumire more sculptural, they shared a delicacy and deliberateness that brought out the movement’s lovely shifting textures.

However, except for a few unison passages and one exhilarating duet, they did not dance together. They danced at one another, repeating their own phrases…..

For the rest of the review–including a critique of certain rampant postmodern choreographic strategies–click here. (You may have to log in or register free: the review is on the UK side of the website, which tends to require that.)

Because of all the premieres last season at New York City Ballet, I  am only now getting to a couple of delightful ballets by Balanchine that recently returned to the rep:

To attract new audiences to its first autumn season, the New York City Ballet has been working the homey angle. Every night this week, a principal dancer steps in front of the curtain for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the ballets we are about to watch. At the All-Balanchine programme on Wednesday, Tyler Angle informed us that the Danses Concertantes pair Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette were recently engaged. The audience cooed. But then he let slip that the ballets were not “populist”.

  Luckily for the Tea Partiers in the house, Angle is only half right. Balanchine is a magpie, as Danses Concertantes and Who Cares? – both back in the repertory after a considerable absence – demonstrate. He absorbs all sorts of popular idioms but transforms them in the process, discovering their classical affinities so they neither overwhelm his art nor serve as mere gimmickry.

  Danses Concertantes, from 1972, filters the character dancing of The Sleeping Beauty‘s Puss in Boots or Little Red Riding Hood through commedia dell’arte and American vaudeville. The steps are all angle and pluck. Dressed by painter Eugene Berman as surrealist jesters, the men sink into deep plié and shrug their shoulders in exaggerated insouciance. In flouncy mini-tutus, the women pump their knees like chorus girls and dip down to graze their arms along the floor like maidens picking flowers while they may. To the bumptious Stravinsky score, someone is always popping up while someone else is going down.

For the rest on Danses Concertantes and a bit on Who Cares?, click here.

Writing on works with wide implications and deliberately homely means is exhilarating–and hard. Here’s the start of my of review of Jerome Bel’s Cedric Andrieux:

Seventeen years ago when he was nearly 30, Jerome Bel decided to approach dancing through reading. As he was French, he read theory: Barthes, Kristeva, Deleuze. You are therefore excused for imagining a chilly result – like theory, head-heavy and heart-light. But Cedric Andrieux, the latest in a series of dancer self-portraits that Bel has conceived and directed since 2004, proved vexingly warm at its US debut as part of the French Institute Alliance Française’s multidisciplinary festival Crossing the Line.

Bel may abjure the “choreographer” moniker, but he understands dance: how preternaturally human it is even as subject is subsumed by object, the dancer by the dance. In Cedric Andrieux, Bel uses this constraining arrangement as a metaphor for work, however exalted or alienated, whatever the calculus of investment and divestment required.

The longtime Cunningham dancer Cedric Andrieux’s account of his life in dance is endearingly direct. “My name is Cedric Andrieux,” he begins. “I am 33.”

CedricAndrieuxmed(c)JaimeRoquedelaCruz.jpgPhoto by Jaime Roque de la Cruz.

He describes his early training (“It will be good for his personal development”, his unimpressed hometown teacher reassures his mother); the first live encounter with a Cunningham dance–all the way to the creation of the present work. Peppering the talk are a few dances: a neo-romantic solo Andrieux did in high school, which he reprises with a gorgeous objectivity that his teenage self probably had no inkling of; a bit of flouncy Trisha Brown; and the exercises with which Cunningham began company class “every day, every week, every month for years.”

Those eight violent, humiliating, vivid years are the centrepiece….

For the whole of the Cedric Andrieux review, click here.

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