by Thea Nerissa Barnes
October 19, 2005 -- Purcell Room, South Bank, London
Jean Abreu’s company performed a new piece called “Fijis” in Dance Umbrella’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER event. Presented before main attractions of a dance evening, BRIEF ENCOUNTER is intended to provide choreographers, new and experienced, a forum for new works. It is stated in the program notes that Abreu’s movement language and choreographic style is a hybridization of Latin and contemporary dance languages but the work presented would take Abreu’s style to new levels.
What was performed was a finely crafted contemporary dance expression that visualised through movement, gestures and dramatic inferences the dancers’ embodied views of human sexuality. It is perhaps here that Abreu’s choreographic skill illustrated its potentiality: numerous bodily narratives evidenced in standing postures and travelling with walks, runs and skips that skimmed the floor or dropped effortlessly onto the floor, interspersed with fluid etched gestures that defined characters and desires. The strong lightly statements, designed by David Holmes, assisted in focussing the solo statements, duets and the interaction of all three dancers, two men, Jean Abreu and Andrej Petrovic and one woman, Eleonor Valere. Composed music by John Metcalfe created the ambience for the unfolding of varied relationships that indicated yearning and preference.
Abreu, Petrovic and Valere stand downstage. The stance is strong, the gaze, piercing. The stance is broken by moving through the space, an arm gesture leading the progression. As a piano is heard, the dancers disburse with a resultant configuration ending with Valere and Petrovic downstage left and Abreu upstage right. The lighting state holds Abreu in a strong linear light that moves stage right to left. Abreu moves in and out of the light hands and torso folding, reaching longing, eventually ending just upstage in darkness. Valere and Petrovic touch, caress and envelope. The movement brings all to centre and the music accompanies this escalation in energy and broader use of space. Petrovic then moves with Abreu. The progression develops tension as the music changes becoming hard, staccato.
Their interaction brings a different layer of intimacy, a different relationship of desire. The progression takes another course when Petrovic returns to Valere and Abreu is alone. Valere reaches then eventually touches Abreu; this touch seems one of empathy, compassion. The music changes and this last configuration of movement and use of space seem to indicate a coda. This final section seems a summation of the movement that has gone before but doesn’t actually comment on the drama between the characters. There is a Latin flavour with the sharp changes in the back and spiral in torso and subtle hip inferences. The stories though illustrated in the sequences of interactions speak of different types of intimacy none of which were really resolved.
Abreu’s new work appears to be a reasonable development for a choreographer who may have a diverse history but is in a position of choice. Hybridization is not a word that would be attached to this work unless you account for Abreu’s heritage as a denominator. His embodied knowledge though is a starting point of numerous possibilities that would allow for works that have no obvious discernible Latin inclinations. It would seem that with this new work, Abreu, a more experienced choreographer at this stage, has chosen to cull the “Other” ness and become more “mainstream”. With these choices there is no need to play the race card by emphasising the choreographer’s past hybridised choreographic strategies.
There is a Latin presence but in a time when cross cultural dance making is the norm Abreu’s work is a variation not novelty. Genealogy intact he kept his altered presence with inferences in the music, in the costumes, and perhaps a world view that assisted in the interpretation of the drama between the characters. This work though is a contemporary work in the same spirit as any other contemporary dance maker be he or she French, African, American, Britain, Korean, from Brighton or Madrid.
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