National Theater, Taipei
March 5, 2016
Back in 2004, French choreographer Christian Rizzo was left asking whether a deep emotion he felt at a performance in Istanbul was caused by the short burst of folk dance itself, or the void that was left when the dancers exited the stage. Why, he wondered, did he feel such empathy with that very precise moment and with that form of dance? The result is d’après une histoire vraie (based on a true story), a dance here for seven men (originally for eight) and two musicians.
It’s a dance with a slow fuse, if one is being honest, maybe sometimes a little too slow, although it has much of interest, and the final joyful explosion is a delight.
It starts in silence. A dancer appears, removes his shoes, and moves slowly. One by one, the others join him. They pair up and break apart. Torsos undulate slowly as if picking up hints of some vaguely remembered rhythm as residues of a dance experience long past, long hidden, slowly and surely makes its way to the surface and to consciousness. The movement itself, although very clearly prompted by Eastern European folk dance, has something of a contemporary edge. The dreamy mood is enhanced greatly by Caty Olive’s fading half-light.
There is much pushing up from the floor, much raising of one arm. Occasionally, a dancer stands apart, or more disturbingly falls and lies motionless as if dead, but they are always get up or are picked up again. Increasingly, folk influenced footwork appears, arms are wrapped around each other’s shoulders as the dancers make a line or a circle that forms and then dissolves.
Some sections are overlong and the movement repetitive. And while the detail changes through sections, the basic ideas come round again and again. However interesting those ideas might be – and you can’t argue with the fact that Rizzo communicates what he sets out to, the attention does occasionally wane a little.
The cast don’t have a classic dancer appearance. Indeed, in their T-shirts, jeans and unkempt long hair and beards that take one back to 1970s rock groups, they look scruffy. And yet, they have a strange elegance. The dance is physical but there is no machismo. There’s certainly a sense of camaraderie and common cause as those memories bubble forth.
That fuse does eventually reach its target as they dancers break into a joyous freedom. They are alive. The have found what they were looking for. They bounce with energy as they eat up the stage. There’s a sense of fun and excitement. It’s all a bit like children playing with innocence that only children can. They even smile!
For the second weekend running, dancers and drummers combined on the National Theater stage, and for the second weekend running they coalesced wonderfully. This was percussion of a very different nature to that from U-Theatre, however. Here, drummer-composers Didier Ambact and King Q4 keep up a stream of tribal rhythms that eventually build into an explosion of sound more akin to rock. The mid-work section where they had the stage to themselves proved to be one of the highlights of the evening.