March 2005—With three works in three theatres, Tricodex at the
Théatre du Chatelet, interpreted by the Lyon Opéra Ballet,
Iiris, (choreography version number two of Iris) at the
Théatre du Chaillot followed by three performances at the Théatre
de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines at the same time as Solo*, the formidable
one-man show of Decouflé by Decouflé, Parisians were fortunate
Tricodex is the fourth version of
Philippe Decouflé's 1986 work, Codex for seven dancers, a series
of tableaux inspired by Luigi Serafini's illustrated encyclopaedia depicting
imaginary plants and insects as well as numerous strange fantasy creatures. It
was then filmed the following year. Decodex, conceived almost ten years
later for 12 dancers, was a logical continuation of the idea created, he told
me, with his children in mind.
A re-worked version, with costumes
always by the extraordinarily imaginative Philippe Guillotel, opening with his
infamous little zebra-striped beings wearing clumsy rubber flippers opened what
should have been an enchanting evening at the Chatelet. The Lyon Opéra
Ballet is normally a fine troupe, but despite the fact they'd been working with
Decouflé, the majority of dancers, thirty in all, didn't convince; they
lacked temperament and personality. From the beginning of the performance, the
charm so normally associated with Philippe Decouflé was absent. It isn't
enough to have a pretty physique and a good technique. No one is irreplaceable,
but people like Christophe Salengro, who never trained as a dancer,
Philippe Decouflé: Tricodex
The dancers were not helped by the lighting,
presumably conceived for the auditorium of the Opéra of Lyon where the
ballet was created last March. The Paris theatre is larger, and the public,
seated further away from the artists, could not fully appreciate the sheer
creativeness and originality in the costumes on the dim stage. They could not
see the dancers' faces, and the solo of the woman with the long waving antennae
on her arms which undulated above her head, for instance, had little impact.
The magic was just not there.
And for the Mr. Universe scene, most of
the men in the company, lacking the sense of self-derision necessary, looked
plain silly. Moreover, the rhythm didn't seem right.
At times, the
company seemed to perk up and the work almost took off. Maybe it just needs
more time; when the troupe learns to be a little crazy and throw its
inhibitions to the wind!
In striking contrast to that interpretation,
Iiris, danced by Decouflé's own group of superb, hand-picked
artists was stunning. Decouflé, past master of superlative stage images,
video imagery which defies all imagination and description, and optical
illusions of such incredible beauty it fairly takes one's breath away,
surpassed himself with Solo* and Iiris, the latter being shown,
he said, for the last time before his group was (temporarily?) disbanded, each
to follow their individual projects.
The splendid Theatre of
Saint-Quentin -en -Yvelines was the perfect place for the troupe to present
their recent work, created in Japan in 2003, and triumphantly received at the
Théatre de Chaillot by packed houses over a six week period at the end
of that year. In Iiris, nothing is what it seems to be. The work opens
with the silhouette of a dancer/dancers on stage, and seen on a screen behind
in black and white, from three different angles. The solitary figure on stage
is clad in loose flowing trousers, but his reflection is dressed in practice
tights and t-shirt, while humour is ever-present in the shadow of a demon who
grows larger and larger, telling us all he is the baddie before he squishes
back into nothing.
But before becoming a choreographer, Philippe
Decouflé was a dancer. And his auto-biographical choreography,
Solo, where he is the sole interpreter is a jewel.
Solo, which will be shown at the Joyce Theatre,
New York, early in 2006, will be reviewed at a later date.
archives: Interview with Philippe
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to
The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus
documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for