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IS DAVE ST-PIERRE ALL SHOCK AND NO AWE?

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 7 APRIL 2014Foudres, premièred in Lyons in 2012, is the last of what Canadian Dave St-Pierre calls his triology on love, following on from La pornographie des ames, and Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde!, created in 2004 and 2006 respectively. The three works were programmed on alternate days at the Theatre de la Ville, and Foudres is arguably the least dreary of the three.

What to think and where to look when entering the theatre to discover a large number of young people, (there were actually from 25 to 28 participants), sitting and lolling about at the back of the stage stark naked, excepting for a pair of feathered angels wings on their shoulders, before the programme begins? Many of the young men were sitting with their legs deliberately akimbo, others fiddling with their genitals, but most disconcerting of all were their unpleasant glares and aggressive attitude.


Foudres
Choreography: Dave St – Pierre
Photo: Wolgang Kirchner

"No photos", shouted a couple of the men to those in the audience at the ready with their cellphones, a ‘request’ reiterated by St-Pierre himself, a  scruffy, bearded little figure who announced that while his cast didn’t mind taking off their clothes on stage, they did not want to see themselves on a porno site on the Internet. Fair enough. Let the show begin.

Things got moving when a boy in a white woolly bobble hat emptied petrol on to a heap of miscellaneous objects, impervious to a young couple who were lying there, immobile, beneath. But before he could light his match, the rest of the troupe swooped down, shrieking, grabbing, snatching, and quarreling over each broken item in what was nothing less than bedlam. Neither sexy nor erotic, gangs of over-excited naked people were jumping on and off tables shouting unintelligible things at the tops of their voices. Rather than a dancers’ training, the main requisite for these company members would appear the possession of ultra-powerful lungs.


Karina Champoux and Ric Robidoux in Foudres
Choreography: Dave St – Pierre
Photo: Wolgang Kirchner

A chaotic scene followed with both men and women of all shapes and sizes falling heavily off the tables and clambering up again, all the while screeching, ‘ this is how you fall in love", and then, thud, toppling yet again onto the floor!  St-Pierre’s cynical and sarcastic message is rammed down the throats of his audience, falling in love is a painful experience; you can get hurt. 

There were several scenes not without a certain initial interest, but they dragged on too long, and it was all too evident that what Dave St-Pierre was seeking was to shock his audience. He was trying throughout to be extreme, to be provocative, to be violent, but what to think watching two naked people cavorting around in a pool of tomato sauce, sliding this way and that?  Many in the audience were tittering, but it was impossible to know if this was because they thought it was meant to be funny, or because they found the whole thing quite ludicrous. Matters didn’t improve as the work dragged on for an hour and a half, with a girl spitting into someone’s mouth, and with a (presumed) member of the audience copulating with a blown-up rubber doll.


Karina Champoux and Ric Robidoux in Foudres
Choreography: Dave St – Pierre
Photo: Wolgang Kirchner

Foudres is obviously designed to be outrageous and shock, but all it achieved at the Theatre de la Ville was to be mildly entertaining, not the best compliment to give Dave St-Pierre. The man is just trying too hard to be the ‘enfant terrible’ of dance, but once the audience had got over the vicarious thrill of seeing a bunch of people without clothes on, what was left? Not much. It takes more than a few bare bottoms to shock a Paris audience.

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.

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