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b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu, l’association fragile b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu, l’association fragile
photo Marc Domage
IN CHRISTIAN RIZZO’S B.C., JANVIER, 1545, FONTAINBLEU, BLACK CURTAINS PART TO REVEAL A WHITE BOX STAGE LIT BY DOZENS OF TEA CANDLES SCATTERED ACROSS THE FLOOR. SCULPTURAL CLUSTERS OF BLACK FABRIC ARE SUSPENDED LIKE FLOATING INKBLOTS AT VARIOUS HEIGHTS. UPSTAGE CENTRE, DANCER JULIE GUIBERT, IN BLACK SKULLCAP-CUM-WIG, BLACK SHIRT AND PANTS AND SILVER STILETTO HEELS LIES ON A NARROW WHITE TABLETOP WITH HER BACK TO US. IN THE FOREGROUND STANDS CHOREOGRAPHER RIZZO, WEARING AN ANTIQUE-LOOKING RABBIT MASK, T-SHIRT, BAGGY JEANS AND HIGH-TOPS—AN ENSEMBLE THAT MAKES HIM LOOK LIKE A ROMANTIC-ERA PORCELAIN FIGURINE DRESSED AS A RAPPER. THE STAGE COMPOSITION IS EXQUISITE (A LITTLE CHEER GOES UP INSIDE ME).

Guibert gets off the table and performs a short, gestural score that has her bisecting space in flat planes, changing levels and implying geometrical shapes. The execution is meticulous. She will repeat this sequence for the duration, adjusting the details slightly, changing her spatial orientation and imperceptibly increasing the tempo. Superbly controlled, Guibert is all precision and grace, even on four-inch silver spikes. Rabbit-faced Rizzo takes his time moving the candles from the floor to the table, just a few at a time. Each part of this slow-moving image is thoughtfully placed. I can feel the surety of an expert artist’s hand. I let the picture seep into my nervous system like an opiate.

Once the initial hit has done its work, I want the piece to change. It does, but at a glacial pace. Guibert goes through her iterations. The sculptures are removed. The candles are extinguished. The quality of light goes from candle-flicker warm to walk-in-cooler frigid. I think this progression is supposed to feel like a graduated revelation but, beautiful as the final state is, the development is too slow for surprise. A high volume industrial sound score by Gerome Nox makes its presence felt part way through. The grinding drone tends to flatten out the nuance of the Guibert’s articulations. The lighting design, on the other hand, is a masterpiece of sensitivity. Designer Caty Olive’s interest lies in the instability and ambiguity of her medium. From the outset she gives us a restless light, almost constantly in flicker, that refuses to settle on a base colour. Within the highly reflective surfaces of the white box, Olive manages to create a depth of field in which Guibert, Rizzo and the sculptural objects come in and out of focus. Unlike the crush of the sound score, the active lighting design contributes a deft dynamism, responsive to the spatial adjustments at work and partnering well with Guibert.

b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu, l’association fragile b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu, l’association fragile
photo Marc Domage
It’s a little hard on the eyes and ears at times. The unstable light, combined with Nox’s acoustic drone and the measured pace of the piece, makes me a bit sleepy. Maybe that’s the point: as I drift into semi-consciousness b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu cuts a deep groove in my dream track. It stays with me in a way that most shows don’t. In the days and weeks since the show ended, the restlessness and dissatisfaction I felt at curtain has given way to a feeling of dream-saturated appreciation. When I think of the show now, I’m left with the fullness and clarity of the image.

The image, however, isn’t Rizzo’s first concern. He begins by building the choreography a step at time. His idea of choreography includes light, sound and sculpture as active partners. The ‘image’ is a natural result of such ‘partnering.’ In the 1990s, Rizzo and other choreographers were labeled in France as makers of non-danse, a designation that in retrospect only makes sense if you think of the dancer as somehow separate from the performance setting, moving in a featureless, empty space that doesn’t interfere with the purity of movement. Non-danse attempted to recontextualise the dancer—sometimes by placing them in a setting that was more ‘theatrical’ (for example, a living room), sometimes by putting the dance in a specific location and often by focusing on the bare materiality of the dancer rather than on the dancer’s technique.

These considerations, as well as others, forced a re-examination of dance and choreography. Previously, speaking, playing guitar, cooking, lecturing etc, were expressions of the body that didn’t fall into the category of dance. Things like set pieces, sculpture, props, lights and sound were usually treated as add-ons, always peripheral to the primacy of the human body. Non-danse puts the dancer-body in dialogue not just with other dancers, but also with all the other elements mentioned above. In a Rizzo show this requires a shift in the kind of attention a spectator brings to the performance. What is the interplay between dancer and light? Between sculpture, space, and sound? Like the lights, my attention flickered between all of these. Then the front part of my brain relaxed, I got sleepy, my consciousness widened and b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu continued its iterations in my memory log.


For information about Christian Rizzo, visit the On the Boards blog, see "Christian Rizzo discusses b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu" and read Rizzo's dialogue with John Jasperse. For a sample of Rizzo's work, see Mon Amour and Avant Un Mois on YouTube.

b.c., janvier, 1545, fontainbleu l’association fragile, choreographer Christian Rizzo, On the Boards, Seattle, Oct 10, 2010

This article was first published online Jan 17, 2010

RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011 pg. 39, web

© Alex Lazaridis Ferguson; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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