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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 6 JULY 2007 —The highly original and imaginative French dancer and choreographer, Philippe Decouflé, returned with his company to the Theatre du Chaillot in June with an eagerly awaited new work, Sombrero, once more a magical mix of dance, theatre, video, painting and music. Enthusiastic audiences packed the theatre each evening for what was introduced as being the story of Francois and Francoise, and/or a trip to Mexico, but which served as an excuse for developing the work with images he began with Solo, his 2003 creation. Sombrero , created for seven dancers including himself, is a series of abstract tableaux, funny, intriguing or dazzling with explosions of video images of true beauty, linked together by the idea of shadows.

Dancers in white come to life, doubled by dancers in black who also have a not-so-secret life of their own, dancers whose images are reflected on geometrically shaped screens and moveable cubes. Video images and mirrors, strategically placed, throw back silhouettes of the artists whose gyrating bodies are shown in all sizes and angles. Cameras which the public can see film them in three dimensions, in close-up, from beneath and from the top.

Philippe Decouflé: Sombrero
Photo: Laurent Philippe

"I'm a craftsman and nothing could be simpler than working on one's shadow", the choreographer told me after his show. "We've all got one, if not several, and I find that fascinating as well as beautiful. My shadows are not ghosts, but amusing little creatures from a fantasy world .The theatre of shades, which is very poetical, has almost disappeared in a world where everything is possible in the cinema today, which was another reason why I created this piece. "

But maybe above all, "the choreographer said, "this piece was created because I wanted to return to working with the same group of people with whom I made Shazam!, and Iris. I need to know and trust my interpreters, and as we all know each other so well, it makes for a stimulating and enjoyable working atmosphere. And, as usual, Sombrero, which we set to original music by Brian Eno with arrangements and other compositions by SĂ©bastien Libolt, was a joint venture. While I choreographed the parts to the Satie and Bartok scores, Christophe Salengro devised the beach scene. I had my doubts about him water-skiing across the stage, but each evening, audiences find it as hilarious as we do; and of course, although we began working on the piece nearly two years ago, there is a great deal of improvisation as we constantly change small details."

Philippe Decouflé: Sombrero
Photo: Olivier Simola

"I cannot over-emphasise", he continued, "that what we create is the work of a whole team".

Sombrero is gay, fresh and light-hearted. It draws an audience into another universe. And this particular production also contains more moments of pure dance than one has become accustomed to from Decouflé. A happy audience left the theatre busily humming Ennio Morricone's, "Il était une fois dans l'Ouest", the choreographer's humorous tribute to Clint Eastwood and the "Spaghetti Westerns", ready to once again affront the outside world.

Philippe DecouflĂ©'s Sombrero is at Sadlers Wells in London from 4 - 8 July 2007.  

Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at

Related CK Archives

The Decouflé Phenomenon

An Interview with Philippe DecouflĂ©

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