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NOT QUITE RHAPSODIC: GOOD MORNING, MR. GERSHWIN IS AN UNEVEN EVENING OF DANCE

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 28 JUNE 2009 — Good Morning, Mr. Gershwin is the title of Montalvo and Hervieu's latest show, presented at the Theatre National de Chaillot in Paris, playing to full houses earlier this season. It is a light-hearted bubble of fun, at least during the first part of the work, before more sombre elements edge their way in.

The work opens with a joyful, brightly coloured video showing at the back of a darkened stage. Naked dancers dive into a pool and swim around underwater, huge smiles on their faces, and are joined by the rest of the troupe, some fully dressed, others in swimsuits. They play peekaboo around a giant-sized sandcastle.

Gershwin's music blares out with the catchy, legendary melodies he wrote in the twenties, and a spotlight illumines the rest of the stage, where the dancers, highly professional, good-humoured and obviously relishing in the fast-moving choreography, now dominate.


Good Morning Mr. Gershwin
Photo: L Philippe

Copyright © CCN de Créteil

The fantasy world of Hollywood and the movies of Esther Williams are recreated before our very eyes and inventive, amusing dance takes place. Two dancers come to the forefront of the scene, one accomplishing an energetic tap dance, all the while partnering a young girl in point shoes. This is entertainment at its best and the audience loves every minute of it.

But then the score of Porgy and Bess takes over. The sunny, easygoing video is replaced by a large, black and white photo of the interior of a segregated bus, succeeded by images of a public lynching. Then, rapidly following one after another came videos of students marching for integrated schools, of the riots in Vaulx-en-velin, and, finally, the insistent image of a woman whose son was shot by the New York City Police. But unfortunately, what was happening simultaneously on the stage became very repetitious, as though the two choreographers had devoted all their time to the video and had run a little short of ideas for the rest.

It was last June that Montalvo and Hervieu, who founded their own company in 1981, were made co-directors of the Chaillot theatre, with the mission to turn it into a popular theatre for everyone, with the emphasis on dance. Via dance, their aim is to bring as wide an audience as possible to the theatre, amuse them, develop their imagination, and make them think. This work, however, even if it was lengthily applauded, lacked the poetry and enchantment of their previous show, Paradis, a superb production for all ages.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe . She is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com and last wrote on the French ballet star Stéphane Bullion.

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