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May 142014
 
5 Tragédie Olivier Dubois photo François Stemmer 500x318 Nudity + Dance = What exactly? The critics on Olivier Dubois Tragédie

‘Tragédie’ Olivier Dubois — photo François Stemmer

French cho­reo­grapher Olivier Dubois’ dance work Tragédie has been cre­at­ing quite a stir. All major papers atten­ded, and there was quite a lot of com­mo­tion from pub­lic­a­tions not usu­ally known for their interest in con­tem­por­ary dance. Well it was because the dan­cers were, as my Grand­mother would have said, in the nuddy. Always grabs the head­lines. Even got me writ­ing this.

As Gra­ham Watts com­men­ted in his Dance Tabs review,

That nud­ity sells seats was yet again proven by the crowded throng at Sadler’s Wells. Never before can I remem­ber see­ing a queue for the gents with a longer line than that for the ladies as there was at the end of this show.

So it gets the (pre­dom­in­antly male) punters in and helps to bal­ance the books; is this a good enough reason for put­ting it on? Clem­ent Crisp in The Fin­an­cial Times bel­lowed a one-star ‘no’!

The event is a dead weight, doomed to sink under the bur­den of its own pre­ten­sions (both phys­ical and intel­lec­tual), and hav­ing less dra­matic sig­ni­fic­ance than a simple fifth pos­i­tion in a bal­let class. The clos­ing assault on our senses with a deaf­en­ing elec­tronic bom­bard­ment and strobe light­ing, while bod­ies rush over the stage and finally decide that enough is enough, marks a nadir of bom­bast even for those inured to the pos­tur­ings of Euro-trash dance.

Nud­ity in dance gets far more atten­tion than nud­ity in plays or films. It’s cer­tainly more ‘in your face’ — quite lit­er­ally if you dare go to one of Dave St-Pierre’s cre­ations — and being that the audience’s atten­tion isn’t divided between watch­ing the per­formers and assim­il­at­ing the mean­ing of a text, the visual aspect sur­mounts all. All those body bits which insist on fol­low­ing their own jerky cho­reo­graphy rather than that of the trunk, four limbs and head, get an awful lot of atten­tion. As Mark Mon­ahan com­ments in The Tele­graph,

As one or two girls in par­tic­u­lar spread their legs and grind their hips, you get what is per­haps most suc­cinctly described as a right eyeful.

3 Tragédie Olivier Dubois photo François Stemmer 500x351 Nudity + Dance = What exactly? The critics on Olivier Dubois Tragédie

‘Tragédie’ Olivier Dubois — photo François Stemmer

Zoë Ander­sen knows exactly the reason why these sort of shows rarely work,

On stage, naked­ness tends to be vul­ner­able rather than sexy. Where film can offer con­trolled angles and flat­ter­ing light­ing, the stage is a big, exposed, chilly space. Unglam­or­ously stripped, Dubois’ dan­cers are also blank-faced, lack­ing individuality.

And in her two-star review for The Inde­pend­ent she gives Dubois’ show the thumbs down too:

Last­ing an end­less 90 minutes, Dubois’ pic­ture of ali­en­ated human­ity is a labour to watch.

Judith Mack­rell in The Guard­ian finds that for her the real reason that this show doesn’t work is the bor­ing choreography,

The basic prob­lem is that the piece remains so dog­gedly wed­ded to an aes­thetic of pro­trac­ted repe­ti­tion; our stam­ina has broken long before the dan­cers break into full-bodied moves. Even when they do, it is in a crude and tedi­ous ver­sion of Dionysiac cath­arsis: a jud­der­ing, swarm­ing, writh­ing, leap­ing assault driven by manic elec­tronic sounds.

Neil Nor­man, writ­ing for The Stage, is more positive,

The voyeur­istic fas­cin­a­tion of watch­ing naked bod­ies is finite; once the sexual attrib­utes have been assessed, the eye moves to the hair and then the der­rière — the shape, boun­ci­ness and move­ment of the pos­terior is sur­pris­ingly expressive.

Well, I’ll mull that one over. Jef­frey Gor­don Baker for Lon­don Dance also found inter­est­ing moments,

When they finally devolved com­pletely into orgi­astic chaos, the effect was not shock­ing or indul­gent, nor was it exactly sexy, but rather joy­ful, very joy­ful in fact, such as to even make you catch your breath at times… I felt I had come to love these dan­cers and their bod­ies, not just for their beauty or skill, but mostly for the sheer muni­fi­cence with which they reminded me of my own child­hood naked dancing.

So they are naked, they walk around a lot, and towards the end it all gets a bit frantic. Debra Craine in The Times asks,

If you are going to put nine naked women and nine naked men on a stage for 90 minutes you must feel you have some­thing to say, but what, I had to ask, was the French cho­reo­grapher Olivier Dubois try­ing to say in Tragédie?

4 Tragédie Olivier Dubois photo François Stemmer 500x263 Nudity + Dance = What exactly? The critics on Olivier Dubois Tragédie

‘Tragédie’ Olivier Dubois — photo François Stemmer

Well accord­ing to Dubois him­self in an inter­view with The Even­ing Stand­ard, the tragedy of the piece is that “being human doesn’t equal human­ity”; human­ity needs to develop.

This is our human tragedy. In each of those bod­ies you can read the his­tory of the world, a map of civil­isa­tion. It brings you to a deep intim­ate rela­tion to your body and so to the world.

So there you go…

The Niet­z­sche quote in the pro­gramme says,

Through song and through dance, the human being mani­fests his belong­ing to a super­ior community.

But as Craine, in another one-starer,  retorts,

No mat­ter what philo­soph­ical val­id­a­tion Dubois might aspire to there is no get­ting away from the fact that his show is pre­ten­tious, hol­low and very, very boring.

Dubois cer­tainly knows what he’s talk­ing about,

I’ve per­formed a lot naked. Every time I was work­ing with a cho­reo­grapher they wanted me to be naked. Every time! Just me!

Hid­den tal­ents? But as Mon­ahan concludes,

Lon­don has seen far worse examples of naked­ness in dance before. But I still can’t help feel­ing that the best kind­ness a cho­reo­grapher can pay his dan­cers is to ask them to keep their clothes on.

A thought that Mack­rell echoes,

The most thought-provoking moment is the cur­tain call, when they appear fully dressed – and we see them anew.

Olivier Dubois with his clothes on Nudity + Dance = What exactly? The critics on Olivier Dubois Tragédie

Olivier Dubois with his clothes on

  2 Responses to “Nudity + Dance = What exactly? The critics on Olivier Dubois’ Tragédie”

  1. here’s a true feel­ing — the bod­ies are var­ied — some actu­ally look like real people — but if they all looked like Roberto Bolle my feel­ing all the crit­ics would have love it — includ­ing Judith Mackrell –

  2. Is not nud­ity it is tra­gedie is the soul on despair

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