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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 14 JANUARY 2013 — Jean-Claude Gallotta presented his latest piece, Racheter la mort des Gestes (Redeeming Death with Movement), a title taken from a text written by Hervé Guibert (1955 - 1991), at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris last November. It is a sort of log-book or succession of sequences presenting people of all ages and physiques, from children to retired dancers and handicapped people and was inspired by souvenirs, by impressions, by a meeting of two people or a song. It is a creation where the importance has been given to the dancers rather than to any choreography.

Racheter la mort des Gestes
Choreography: Jean-Claude Gallotta
Photo: Guy Delahaye

Jean-Claude Gallotta, an amiable, thoughtful man, never trained as a classical dancer. In fact, he did not discover dance until the age of 20, when he dropped his studies at the College of Fine Arts in Grenoble and began to experiment with groups of actors, musicians, dancers and people from the world of arts to create his first pieces. A few years later, at the age of 26, he went to work with Merce Cunningham in New York where he also discovered Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs and on his return to France two years later, he founded his own company with Mathilde Altaraz. He subsequently accepted a post at the Maison de la Culture de Grenoble, becoming the director there in 1989 and playing a large part in the French contemporary dance scene.

Audiovisual aids are an important part of his work, and Racheter la mort des gestes opens on to a most spectacular backcloth which seems to be one enormous window stretching the whole width of the stage, floor to ceiling. Outside night is falling and the pavements are glistening with rain. Cars with their headlights on swish past, and one sees passers-by hurrying home. It is hard to believe that we are not looking outside the Theatre, but what we see is not Paris. It could be anywhere.

Racheter la mort des Gestes
Choreography: Jean-Claude Gallotta
Photo: Guy Delahaye

Indeed, the work is a melting pot of everyone and anyone, those whose dancing years are over or who have never danced. It is a work for those who would like to have danced, for those who would like to dance. Indeed, not all of those thirty people on stage are professional dancers. They could be you, they could be me, for although the work is characterized by short choppy, rhythmic steps and outstretched arms, the personal experiences of each member of the cast count for more than technical prowess or perfect physique. No one on stage has a perfect physique. Dance for Gallotta is a universal theme.

Words, movements, extracts of films and music mingle together in this collective journey, a documentary which isn’t one, to complete a coherent, warm-hearted whole. Call it theatre, call it what you will, it leaves the spectator with a glimpse of hope into a better world.

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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