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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 3 JULY 2012 — Faustin Linyekula is a 28-year-old Congolese dancer and choreographer who worked in France with both Mathilde Monnier and Régine Chopinot. After creating the Studios Kabako at Kinshasa in 2001, he was invited to Suresnes Cités Danse in 2003 and subsequently to the Festival d’Avignon a few years later. In 2006, he wrote The Dialogue Series: Veritable ballet negre, a text intended for the catalogue for the Paris exhibition, Montparnasse Noir, which he dreamed of staging for the Paris Opéra Ballet. It became the basis of this current work when his proposition to work upon a ballet within a ballet via a strongly personal, critical look at the naïve, 1923, La Création du Monde was accepted by Didier Deschamps, the previous director of the Ballet of Lorraine.

La Création du Monde was a ballet created by the Ballets Suédois, an avant-garde company strongly influenced by painters such as Fernand Léger, who designed the sets for it, the first work inspired by African "negroes". The ballet, highly spectacular, gave an idealized picture of Africa at a time when the majority of Europeans remained ignorant, or chose to do so, of the increase in  colonization and horrors of civil wars.

Costume for La création du monde 1923 - 2012

Linyekula had discovered the ballet with its score by Milhaud, libretto by Blaise Cendrars, and choreography by Jean Borlin, in 2005, and his anger and resentment had been slowly building up since then. But unfortunately, when a choreographer is heavy on messages, it means bad news for the ballet itself.

The reconstitution in 2000 by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer of the 1923 La Création du Monde, a 20-minute jewel despite any political implications, is at the centre of the work. Sumptuous designs by Fernand Legér developed into a moving tableau and while the clouds in the sky in the background blew slowly this way and that, the dancers themselves were dressed as Pagan Gods, cubist monkeys and exotic plumed birds, following specific tableaux. Adam and Eve dominated this paradisiacal scene, and while the costumes, colourful and extravagant, but cumbersome, hindered movement, the choreography enabled the dancers to demonstrate their excellent technique, not apparent during the first part of the work, when the audience was subjected to Linyekula’s own ideas.  

Le Ballet de Lorraine: La création du monde 1923 - 2012

The piece opened with 24 young people, all white, in jeans and sweatshirts, joggings and sneakers sitting dutifully on a long bench at the back of the stage , much as if they were in a waiting room to pass their baccalaureat. They finally donned attractive justaucorps, and the work almost took off with several attractive and supple sequences, only it was impossible to know what was happening or where the young choreographer was going. The dancers shivered and quivered; they moved in slow motion and then hurled themselves brutally across the stage. There was also the constant presence of a stagehand/ dancer/ choreographer/handyman moving around throughout the work. All that was conveyed about him was that he was black.

Le Ballet de Lorraine: La création du monde 1923 - 2012

However, he did return after the central sequence to scream hysterically and shout a text written by Linyekula, a text it was quasi impossible to understand given the violence with which it was delivered. It was over the top and serves to emphasise yet again, that no matter how important the cause, dance and politics make bad companions.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque. She last wrote on Dominique Mercy, co-director of Theater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.

Headline photo: Faustin Linyekula

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