By Christian Viveros-Faun√©
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
Trained in fine arts, Gallotta came late to dance and early on discovered the work of American vanguardists like Robert Wilson and Meredith Monk. He traveled to New York to study with Merce Cunningham in 1978. But Gallota is an original in both mind and body. Onstage, he frolicks like a child-gawky, impish, preoccupied. And this recent work celebrates and refines the ordinary.
The stage of the Ted Shawn theater is bare except for several ballet barres, its backdrop the walls of the old barn theater. Some black chairs sit at the sides. The 10 company members who file onto the stage are young, old, tall, short, slim, sturdy. They're dressed in ordinary clothes (if you call the strappy high heels that Béatrice Warrand wears ordinary). In this, their "opening number," they strut toward and away from us in precise rhythm; they plant their feet and shake their hands in the air. Backs to us, they turn around, one by one, to utter a single sentence that explains why they dance. The music (by Strigal) stops abruptly, and the performers, puzzled, do too. As they leave the stage, the barres fall to the floor (if that isn't a mission statement, I don't know what is). Gallotta ambles on, in his usual slightly stooped posture. Muttering something that sounds like "Je veux dire quelque chose," he takes fidgety little running steps and pauses, thinks, then runs some more.
Marie-Christine Soma's lighting revises the stage with dim beams, and the music turns slightly sepulchral. Gallotta, sitting with a mic, speaks-almost singing-an echoey, barely audible commentary. From this point we see a number of overlapping encounters-duets, trios, quartets-often observed by others. Ximena Figueroa and long-legged Thierry Verger use their dancerly skills to engage in a dialogue; as they gallop around, she keeps thrusting a leg at him; on the run, he turns to catch it instantly, as if it were a fly ball. Burly, mustachioed Martin Kravitz and white-bearded Christophe Delachaux (both nimble and wonderful) stroll together singing an old Italian song by Antonio Lotti and cherishing the repeated words, "bocca, bocca bella." In one beguiling quartet, Verger romps inquisitively with Cécile Renard, Figueroa, and Camille Cau, all three now wearing matching shorts and tops. They collaborate in turning him; he visits each of them; all four walk holding hands; he stacks them up and admires his handiwork.
We see a range of relationships amid the intermittent jostling horseplay, frisky steps, and yelling. "I love. . .," Kravitz says, and gray-haired Françoise Bal-Goetz puts a hand over his mouth before he can say more. Bal-Goetz and Renard might be mother and daughter. Later, Renard (now wearing a different dress) and Benjamin Houal are introduced as the young girl and the young writer. Toward the end, now stripped to briefs and a top, tall Warrand in her high heels is partnered from behind by Darrell Davis in a slow, tender duet that Gallotta has described earlier. "Un petit souvenir qui occupe tout ma memoire," says one of the passersby. And indeed, the two-like all the others-might be re-enacting a remembered moment. Davis-his glasses on, his jacket off, his shirt untucked-runs his hand down Warrand's leg as if her skin were silk. We hear a muted telephone conversation between a man and a woman. After this, the whole group helps to dress Warrand in her original costume, so they can reprise some of their opening chorus.
The pace throughout Des Gens Qui Dansent is leisurely, and the atmosphere calm-low-keyed, but rich with life. Once in the middle of the piece and once at the end, a film is projected of Henry Miller talking on what might be his deathbed. He's tough, cheerful. "I'm alive to the end," he says.
Note: At Jacob's Pillow all summer is an entrancing exhibit that Norton Owen has put together. Longtime Voice readers have never forgotten the weekly joys provided for many years by Jules Feiffer's cartoons. On view in Blake's Barn, there's a fine selection of his characters: the glum couples; the baffled, politically conscious folks; and the eternally optimistic, eventually wilting modern dancers. What most of us probably didn't know was that Feiffer's love of dancers carried over into wonderful, nimble watercolors-both of known dancers like Fred Astaire and imagined ones. A dance to summer, if ever there was one.