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, Decouflés 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, "Im 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
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
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 Decouflés 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 Decouflés 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 Guillotels extravagant costumes for Triton, that clever
mix of circus, dance, mime, acrobatics and theatre?
Philippe Decouflé: Panorama
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
Presented concurrently with the danced creation, Opticon is a
mesmerizing kaleidoscopic adventure where visitors are propelled behind
the scenes of Decouflés 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
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
Shazam! Says Decouflé.
Headline image: Philippe Decouflé:
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
Related Culturekiosque Dance
Theatre Review: Philippe Decouflé: Octupus
Philippe Decouflé at the "Crazy Horse"
Philippe Decouflé and the Theatre of Shades
Interview with Philippe Decouflé