PARIS, 2 March
2004 - Angelin Preljocaj, one
of the most important choreographers on the French contemporary dance scene has
returned to Paris with a new, visually very attractive ballet, which, contrary
to his work in recent years, is neither provocatively violent nor startlingly
innovative. It therefore disappointed those avid for sensation, while
delighting the rest of us, nostalgic for Les Noces, Le
Parc, and Annunciation.
After a year spent resting and
travelling, from the banks of the Ganges to the heights of Kilimanjaro,
Preljocaj has created Near Life Experience, a work containing moments of
extreme beauty and set to extraordinary music by the French electro-pop group
Air, more frequently associated with topping the
This latest work was inspired, he said, by
the effects due to the lack of oxygen on the top of Kilimanjaro, when, at 5963
meters, all his movements were in slow motion. "It gave me the idea of creating
something out of life", he said in an interview on the radio, "something where
you could stop the world and get off for a time, but then return. My ballet is
therefore about the body succumbing to various states, including a trance-like
ecstasy, having a sexual orgasm or fainting, where everything comes to a halt
for a while. I was concerned, too, about what happens when someone has an
epileptic seizure, or a fit of hysteria."
"The challenge also came from the music", he added. "I
listen to music almost all the time, to suggestions friends give and to
programs on the radio, looking not necessarily for something which immediately
evokes images, but often for quite the opposite which can be more stimulating.
"Air" is an adventurous group, and as they've already worked on film music, I
didn't consider I was taking much of a risk."
Angelin Preljocaj: Near Life Experience
Photo: Guy Delahaye
Indeed, few chances were taken with this piece,
created for eleven of his dancers, all of whom were superb and totally
committed. Not only does the music by the couple Jean-Benoit Dunckel and
Nicolas Godin fit sublimely to the choreography, creating both setting and
atmosphere, but the costumes, first in white and then in a shimmering
transparent peach, complement the pure, light, white decor conceived by
Preljocaj himself in collaboration with Tom Pye. The costumes, designed by
Gilles Rosier, who learnt his trade with Balmain, Kenzo and then Gautier, were
Angelin Preljocaj is a choreographer in the true
sense of the word. He knows how to deal with groups and a pas de deux or pas de
trois holds no secrets for him. He also understands the importance of silence,
and there are several moments of total stillness, when we are looking at
something beyond everyday matters. On several occasions, I was only aware that
the music had stopped when it began again.
A group of six in white meet and cling to the
other. A group of four swings a girl in slow, sensuous movements before, with a
rapid twist of her whole body, she leads them into a pas de cinq of very great
beauty. Contact is never lost, and movements seem to gain in clarity and
precision in a silence that is only recognised when the music
At one moment, gravity is defied as two girls are
carried aloft by the rest of the company, and float through the air in
effortless movement, the tips of their toes barely touching the bubbles, the
large round glass bowls.
Near Life Experience
© Photo: Guy Delahaye
A ball of red wool crosses the stage diagonally, and
two dancers meet, join, and separate, in echoed movements. One body replies to
the questions of the other with a glance, a smile, a caress. The dancers
enlace, cross and re-cross the dividing line.
The rest of the company
is seated on the stage throwing balls of red wool that tangle round their
bodies. A sort of cat's cradle is made. Movements are big and generous, not cut
in space as in recent works. Everything is lovely in this world; it is pure and
uncluttered. The syrupy music succumbs to the charm and the choreography is
repetitive, deliberately so, suspended in time.
Then a bare-breasted
woman arrives, with rope in her mouth. The gentleness seems now a veneer and as
an enormous red ball rolls on stage out of which a foetus emerges still in its
wrappings, the curtain comes down. It is the audience who is left out in the
cold, rejected, and forced from their seats to fight with the rain and the
Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Observer and
Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf
Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.