Vive la France! Vive its Danse! France Moves, a city-wide festival celebrating the dramatic diversity of contemporary French dance, will take place uptown, downtown and all around New York City, April 23-May 6. In addition to a series of major American debuts and at least ten New York premieres, there will be screenings of landmark French dance films, a photography exhibit, and a variety of workshops and symposia to provide a cultural context.
Although still a relatively young art form in France (French modern dance began its own boom in the 70’s), the artists rapidly carved out their own turf and stimulated immediate international interest in their efforts. Representing a range of aesthetic and cultural backgrounds, each of the participating choreographers in France Moves—Maguy Marin, Blanca Li, Dominique Boivin, Fred Bendongué, Boris Charmatz, Lionel Hoche, Philippe Decouflé, Angelin Preljocaj, José Montalvo and Josef Nadj—offers his/her own radically individual and energetic new look at the possibilities of the art form. The venues at which their companies will perform are appropriately diverse: Brooklyn Academy of Music; The Joyce Theater; Florence Gould Hall at the French Institute Alliance Française; The New Victory Theater; The Kitchen; and Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church. Yorgos Loukos, whose other hats include artistic director of the Lyon Opera Ballet as well as of the International Dance Festival in Cannes, is artistic director of France Moves.
One of the most familiar artists to American audiences, Maguy Marin, still only in her 40’s, continues to be one of the trailblazers of the French modern dance movement. The theatrical wit and dramatic originality of her “May B,” “Cendrillon” and “Coppélia” were instant hits with American audiences. Ms. Marin will present the New York premiere of a much starker production, “Pour ainsi dire” (Trans. “So to Speak”) at The New Victory Theater.
In this poignant 60-minute trio, Marin once again examines the human condition, exploring through text, sound and movement the psychological, emotional and spiritual effects of differing notions of time.
Like Maguy Marin and José Montalvo, Blanca Li, 38, is of Spanish heritage. The former national rhythmic gymnast will present her solo work “Zap! Zap! Zap!” at the Kitchen. The one-woman show is a zany parody of television shows, during which Li impersonates a whole series of wacky characters from newscasters to game show hosts to pop musicians.
BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House will be the scene of the long-awaited U.S. debut of Philippe Decouflé, whose Compagnie DCA will present the U.S. premiere of “Shazam,” a work acclaimed for its stunning magic. Noted for its mixed media wizardry, humanity and humor, “Shazam” employs a battalion of multiple live interactive videos that overlay and juxtapose projected images of the live dancing on stage to create kaleidoscopic collisions of perception and perspective.
Last year, The Joyce Theater sold out its performances of Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu’s “Paradis” when the troupe made its American debut. Headed by the Spanish-born José Montalvo and the French native Dominique Hervieu, the company will return, this time to BAM’s Opera House, bringing with it the American premiere of “Le Jardin lo io ito ito.” A witty and poetic mix of high tech film and live dancing that combines hip hop, ballet, baroque, modern and African dance in an joyous ode to our differences and collective humanity, the full-evening work is appropriately performed by an international cast. The title refers to a collage by Max Ernst in which the birdheaded men and women cry out: “Epopopoi, popai popopopoi, popoi io io iot itoi.”
Another face rapidly becoming familiar to New Yorkers is Angelin Preljocaj, whose dance company was seen locally at The Joyce in 1997 and then at BAM in 1998. For Ballet Preljocaj’s return to The Joyce, it will present the New York City premiere of “Paysage après la bataille” (Trans. “Scene After the Battle”). The work sets the dark poetic power of Joseph Conrad and the playful intellect of Marcel Duchamp in artistic opposition with the human body serving as mediator.
The Joyce Theater will also be the scene of the American debut of Compagnie Josef Nadj, which will present the U.S. premiere of “Les veilleurs,” based on the literature of Franz Kafka. The darkly surreal and hallucinatory work is performed by a cast of Hungarian-trained actors and French dancers. Hungarian by birth, Nadj, now 41 years old, studied theater at the University of Budapest before moving to Paris in 1980, where he first discovered dance.
Florence Gould Hall at the French Institute Alliance Française will present separate performances by two young companies: Lionel Hoche’s MéMé BaNjO and Dominique Boivin’s Compagnie Beau Geste. Both are New York debuts.
With wit and an eye for the telling detail, Boivin takes on the history of dance from the early Greeks to modern America with nods to Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, the Ballets Russes, among others in his humorous, one hour solo, “La Danse, une histoire à ma façon.” Balletically trained as a child, and a former student of Béjart, Boivin worked with Carolyn Carlson in Paris, Alwin Nikolais in Angers, and in New York City with Merce Cunningham.
Lionel Hoche, age 34, who has already made works for the Lyon Opera Ballet and is readying his first piece for the Paris Opera Ballet, will present “Nycthémère, Volubilis/Mirabilis,” a two part work that presents two worlds that oppose and complement each other in their darkness (mirabilis) and light (volubilis), sensuality and asceticism. The music, largely Bach and Vivaldi, will be played live by an organist who shares the stage with the dancers.
One of France’s most talked-about young artists, the former Paris Opera Ballet student Boris Charmatz, age 27, will make his New York debut at The Kitchen with “herses, (une lente introduction)” a quintet. With its audiences seated on four sides, “herses,” was acclaimed at its 1999 Edinburgh Festival premiere for its mesmerizing sensuality and powerful minimalist theatricality.
Reflecting the new multi-cultural spirit of contemporary French society, Compagnie Azanie will present the New York premiere of “D’une rive à l’autre” (Trans.“From one shore to another”) at Danspace Project at St. Marks Church. Mixing African, Caribbean and Brazilian dance forms and musical rhythms, Fred Bendongué, who was raised in Lyon, celebrates the energetic intermingling of cultures that now characterizes the city. The dancing will be accompanied by live percussion on stage. Compagnie Azanie made its New York debut in 1996 at 651 ARTS.