BWW Reviews: Passage a l'act/Acting Out
Let me start off by saying that there's a reason I write about dance- there's something wonderful about the movement, the fast-paced form of expression that never tires, the familiarity of the steps that I grew up learning, forever being reworked and transformed into new, beautiful pieces of art. One thing that has never been able to capture my attention like a dance performance is an art exhibit. Of course, I can appreciate art and its beauty, as well as the hard work that goes into it, but I easily grow bored and find myself moving on to the next piece of art in the room. So, the fact that I stayed for the entirety of Passage a l'act/Acting Out, which is part of the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) Crossing the Line festival for the entire hour without once glancing at my watch, is really saying something.
Acting Out is a dance performance and an art exhibit all rolled into one. The performers double as sculptures, their bodies becoming art in every sense of the word, using props and other dancers in the room to enhance their performance. This dance performance did not use dance in the way one would expect, but instead went back to the basics of dance, using simple and basic movements as a form of expression and art.
The first piece in the room that caught my eye and utilized dance to the fullest extent was Narcissistic Duet, an artful take on the mythic tale of Narcissus, who falls in love with his reflection in the water, but can never be with it. However, instead of a reflection in the water, the spotlight set his stage and reflection on the creaky wooden floor. The performer never took his eyes off of his own shadow as he danced a mix of modern and hip-hop to create new and fascinating shapes.
The other exhibits in the room focused more on basic movements than actual choreography. Horizontal Climbing Trail, for example, featured two performers tied together who "climbed" across the floor, moving all throughout the room, maneuvering between the audience and other exhibits. In Praise of Laziness featured two performers in a complex game of Twister, using one another as a bench or table to pose in a lazy stance. Their poses took a great deal of balance and flexibility as they silently agreed upon the next pose, working together in what appeared to be hard work, despite being "lazy." Domestic Accident showed off a great deal of coordination and flexibility as a girl was completely entwined in a chair, her legs, arms and neck going through the gaps in the furniture. She would move from lying on the floor to sitting to standing with an ease that was extraordinary to watch.
I initially believed that Horizontal Climbing Trail would be the only exhibit to move from its location, but I was soon proven wrong when Temporarily Untitled, a man in a box posing as a bust and staring straight ahead, seemingly unseeing, rolled right past me from behind. Like all good art should, it got a reaction out of me- I jumped, and then laughed.
Absurd Experiments was easily the best and most popular piece of this showcase. The performer in this piece acted as the conductor of sorts for the entire room, directing the other performers when to "stop time," causing all the pieces to freeze in their movements until, as if by some unspoken agreement, they all began once again. He also "started a revolution," causing each dancer to swap roles, temporarily acting out a difference scene than the one they were originally in. One of my favorite things about Absurd Experiments was that the dancer would call out a movement, such as "put your best foot forward," or "twiddling of the thumbs," then act out of the movement in varying ways, whether it meant increasing the speed in the step, or circling his arms in wide circles in order to rotate his thumbs. Basically, he was putting a name to every modern, improv, or choreography class that has ever existed, in which the dancer must isolate a different body part, or create a movement centered entirely around one step- absurd experiments. And to the outside viewer, I imagine that's exactly what it would look like.
This was a wonderful show for art and dance fans alike. And even if you missed this performance, the Crossing the Line festival is not over yet. The festival continues until October 13. You can learn more about it and future performances at www.fiaf.org/ctl.
Photo Credit: Marc Domage