By R.C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Amy Brady
By Sam Blum
The dancers are marvelous. In addition to those named, Stefano Rosato and Simon Williams give especially bold performances. Oddly, amid all this good dancing and smart craziness and why-not? inventiveness, the only profoundly stirring moment of Program B had little to do with the choreography. In between Mmm and I Do, some archival BBC footage was projected. Here before us in black-and-white, Igor Stravinsky conducts the opening of Sacrea very little, gnome-like man, eyes darting, summoning up this huge, life-affirming musical experience. Reader, I wept.
Heddy Maalems Le Sacre du Printemps is much rawer and more passionate. Half French, half Algerian, born in Algiers and raised in France, Maalem came to dance through boxing and Japanese martial arts, and in 2004 was indirectly inspired to tackle Stravinskys score by a visit to Lagos, Nigeria, where devastating poverty, eroding traditions, and rampant Westernization butt together. The 14 dancers in his France-based company are all of African descent.
To a superb recording of Stravinskys music (Pierre Boulez leading the Cleveland Orchestra), the performers come together in a kind of contemporary ritual. The men wear colored trunks, the women trunks and bras. The stage is a white box. The most striking thing about Maalems choreography is the way he designs the group. The dancersor clumps of themoften nest together, bellies pressed against one anothers bent-over backs. The men nuzzle up to the women; once, in pairs, the women dance wide-legged, while the each man keeps his head pressed against his partners thigh and groin. In Part II, the scene in the original Sacre in which the victim is chosen, people cluster around Marie Diedhiou and gently touch her body; then they lean in and, in one swift action, form a basket and lift her so shes nesting on their arms.
Compagnie Heddy Maalem
June 10 through 15
The performers respond instantly to changes in the musicpatiently forming lines, circles, and chains, then suddenly erupting into running, leaping, and violent head-shaking. But Maalem also offers an introduction and an interlude with Benoît Dervauxs projected films of Lagoslush scenery or urban congestionset to augmented natural sounds. The dramatic timing of the piece is sometimes crude or confusing. Suddenly everyone onstage starts hurling imaginary rocks at one corner, then at us. And then thats over, and they surround Diedhiou. Theres an implied mating (she and Hardo Papa Salif Ka), but Diedhiou is leader as well as sacrifice, and the lights black out before the final tremulous note of the music sounds. The real ordeal is left to spot-lit Dramane Diarra, alone on stage in front of a blurry, chopped-up film of a horse. Without stirring from his spot, he writhes and jerks his limbs and torso, increasing in speed until hes almost spastic. The lights go out again. Now what? Oh, its over. Uncertain, but grinning, the vivid performers trail onto the stage and bow. Their roughness, their power, their commitment are endearing.
Compagnie Heddy Maalem performs as part of a season billed as The French Collection. Compagnie Maguy Marin plays at the Joyce from June 17 through 22 and Ballet Biarritz from June 24 through 28. You can also escape the hot city and catch Maalems Sacre at Jacobs Pillow (June 25 through 29).