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REVIEW: PHILIPPE DECOUFLÉ'S PANORAMA

 

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 13 AUGUST 2012 — "In 1983, when Philippe Decouflé founded his company, I was minus one", jokes Mattieu Penchinat at the beginning of Panorama, Decouflé’s joyous new creation, premiered at Rennes in April this year.  "Now at 29," he cracked, totally at ease with himself in a role which might have been tailor-made for Christophe Salengro, "I’m the oldest member of the troupe."

Indeed, for his most recent show, which is running for six weeks at the Grand Hall of La Villette in Paris, the irrepressible, incorrigible French choreographer, Philippe Decouflé, a long-time favourite of the Parisian public, has turned towards seven young dancers, barely out of Dance Conservatory.

He wanted, he said, to work with young interpreters, and to ‘reinvent’ rather than reproduce some of his earlier pieces, works created when he himself was in his early twenties. He wanted to restage certain shows that spectators had never seen, beginning with Jump, his first video-dance which had only been performed on one occasion. Equally, Vague Café, which won the Bagnolet competition at the start of his career, had never been restaged.


Philippe Decouflé: Panorama
Photo: Christian Berthelota

He also wanted to have girls interpreting roles created for the boys, and have, for example, five dancers performing a sequence originally intended for four. He wished, moreover, to play around with ideas, having a shadow from Sombrero appearing in a scene from Triton with the dancers wearing costumes inspired from Shazam!

While so much of Decouflé’s choreography was built around the personalities of his dancers with their collaboration, it was a challenge to give these well-known solos to unknown interpreters, an enormous risk were it not for the magic, poetry and lyricism running through his work making it so accessible to dancers and spectators alike. The four young men in Panorama, all excellent, threw themselves into the piece, body, heart and soul, while the three girls, more hesitant, displayed a quiet charm not unsuited to the work.

For newcomers to Philippe Decouflé’s universe, Panorama was a riot of good-natured fun, a blaze of sunshine on a rainy evening, which left all members of the audience with huge smiles on their faces as they left the auditorium. For those acquainted with the history of the troupe, it was an occasion to sit back to enjoy sequences from the past with a twist, including  Codex, the 1986 piece which developed into Decodex almost ten years later. Who can ever forget those extraordinary fantasy figures, whimsical little creatures with long waving tentacles replacing arms, the exotic and inventive plants and vegetables and the incredibly bizarre flying creatures inspired by the encyclopedia designed by Luigi Seraphini? Above all, who has not been marked by Philippe Guillotel’s extravagant costumes for Triton, that clever mix of circus, dance, mime, acrobatics and theatre?


Philippe Decouflé: Panorama
Photo: Christian Berthelota

Panorama is an hour and a half of pure pleasure where the young interpreters dance, tell stories and make the audience laugh. They entertain us, something that so many choreographers of today no longer do. Together with Guillotel, whose re-created costumes as well as the lighting, images and music  are as important as the dance itself, Decouflé has succeeded in bringing souvenirs and  memories back to life, creating something new, fresh and packed with charm with emerging artists who can act and sing as well as dance.

Opticon: Exhibition in the grand Hall of La Villette

Presented concurrently with the danced creation, Opticon is a mesmerizing kaleidoscopic adventure where visitors are propelled behind the scenes of Decouflé’s universe to enter into a world of fantasy and beauty. All the magic of his optical illusions, his visual inventions and the machinery of the other side of the décor are there for everyone to share.

Philipe Decouflé and his team of merry men never attempt to explain the inexplicable, but open the door to a world of dreams, poetry and imagination. Move! Jump! Dance! Swim! Shout for joy in this extraordinary setting! If you move, the décor will move with you!

Shazam! Said the magicians as they created wonders and marvels.
Shazam! Says Decouflé.

Headline image: Philippe Decouflé: Panorama
Photo: Christian Berthelota

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.

Related Culturekiosque Dance Archives

Theatre Review: Philippe Decouflé: Octupus

Philippe Decouflé at the "Crazy Horse"

Philippe Decouflé and the Theatre of Shades

The Decouflé Phenomenon

An Interview with Philippe Decouflé



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