BWW Reviews: Lyon Opera Ballet Offers a Mobil Sculpture as Glimpse of the End of the World

BWW Reviews: Lyon Opera Ballet Offers a Mobil Sculpture as Glimpse of the End of the World

Last weekend, The Brooklyn Academy of Music saw the return of the Lyon Opera Ballet and the American premier of Christian Rizzo's Ni Fleurs, Ni Ford-Mustang. While commissioning works by contemporary choreographers is now a staple with ballet companies (particularly in Europe), Lyon Opera Ballet has developed a bit of a vanguard reputation in championing "modern ballet." Since its inception in 1969, the Company has commissioned works by American choreographers Bill T Jones, Susan Marshall, William Forsythe, and Trisha Brown as well as avant-garde European artists Alain Buffard, Maguy Marin and Jerome Bell, just to name a few.

The Company's engagement at BAM is part of the three week DANSE: A French-American Festival of Performance and Ideas, which highlights the work of French choreographers and performers to expand the visibility of contemporary dance to a wider public. As I sat in the audience of BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House Friday night, I couldn't help but wonder if this particular audience was ready for what the choreographer had to offer.

The Ballet actually began about 10 minutes before the curtain rose: a propulsive score, created for the work by Jerome Nox, crept through the speakers of the theater as the audience took their seats. The music became louder and louder until the audience was drowned in its tension. The curtain rose on a deserted landscape to reveal red glittered heels, a la Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, scattered around the stage and a metallic silver skeleton suspended from the ceiling. Upstage right was a massive white screen that glowed a stark white light, revealing an indistinguishable, animal-like mass among the ruby slippers. The dancers entered by one, took their places on stage, and lay lifelessly around this tempestuous landscape that Rizzo had created.

I had read somewhere recently that historically, contemporary French choreography is heavily influenced by the post-modern movement of the 1970's. That genre's attention to design and visual art over reinvention of movement is blaringly clear in Ni Mustang, as the piece featured little "dance vocabulary," relying mostly on the generally post-apocalyptic atmosphere Rizzo created to drive the work.

The choreographer's background in fashion was equally clear as the dancers despairingly exited and re-entered in elaborately designed coats and dresses. One dancer emerged in a green deconstructed military jacket (perhaps giving a nod to the choreographer's interest in Rock and Roll culture), while another emerged in an over-sized kitchen maid's gown, complete with extra padding to dramatically morph the dancer's physique. The highlight of these costume changes came at the very end of the piece when each dancer made their final entrance clad head to toe in black body-altering shimmering body suits. The music came to a head, the glittering skeleton descended to the ground and the unidentified road kill cleared from the stage. These shimmering out of this world creatures were left to pick up the pieces.

As the deliberately steady pace of Ni Mustang Accelerated, these fanciful aliens built to a ravishing finale. The light flickered on the dancers spacesuits as they intermixed and intermingled with fluid execution like pieces of Mylar; an after-party for the end of the world. This is the piece. As Rizzo pointed out in the program notes, the ballet is a mobile structure with a narrative that asked if we could still dance on the ruins at the end of the world. I wasn't aware it was a narrative but another question was asked by the woman sitting in front of me at the end of the work: "You call that a ballet?"

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Brendan Drake Brendan Drake is a Brooklyn based freelance choreographer, dancer and occasional writer. He creates work under the umbrella of his group Brendan Drake Choreography which has been produced at Movement Research, Dixon Place, The Wild Project and others. His first full length work entitled Last B@#$% Standing, premiered at Triskelion Arts Center as part of their Split Bill Commissioning Program. Brendan holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Massachusetts.