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Company Stefanie Batten Bland: sbb birdlegs

'The Polished Hoes' and 'Beneath Our Feet, a tale of a comet'

by Renée E. D'Aoust

October 13-14, 2008 -- Café de la Danse, Paris, France

Choreographer Stephanie Batten Bland embraces earthly pleasures; in her work, gravity is often a lover, yet she also reminds us that gravity is life’s most consistent partner. Her dances are natural, expressing ideas and exposing flesh.

Company Stefanie Batten Bland – “sbb birdlegs” – presented two fleshy, earthbound works October 13th and 14th at Café de la Danse in Paris.

“The Polished Hoes” illustrates Ms. Bland’s smart style by asking viewers to ponder whether our origins undo us or make us. Perhaps a little of both, but in this duet for Batten Bland and Raphaël Kaney Duverger, the tug of annihilation or of integration (whores and hoes, if you will) is stronger than a dose of each. Claire Avias’s costumes, integral to the ambidextrousness of the duet’s relationships (lovers, friends, siblings), and Jean-Philippe Barrios’s musical montage, incorporating Louisiana Creole folk songs, make for surprising narrative phrasing.

Duverger crawls backward through primordial ooze, tactile and forceful, and stands without ceremony, an indisputable presence. Actions repeat so that the eye becomes familiar with the rhythmic shrug of the shoulders, arms raised high, and then is surprised by the diversion of the expected into unexpected terrain.

In the quartet “Beneath Our Feet, a tale of a comet,” cinematographer Guillaume Le Grontec’s sleek and chic set defines a closet where, in one section, partygoers twitch as they dress up. Sometimes having fun just makes one wiggle.

Ms. Bland creates dramatic montages interlaced with luscious and generous movement allowing for a multiplicity of interpretations. She excels at floor work. Sometimes as choreography moves closer to the ground, it can seem cramped, fitting for small performance spaces but hardly bigheartedly expressive. In Ms. Bland’s supple choreography, dancing creates another plane where the body finds its origins. The sense of being firmly rooted, as one sees in Brancusi’s sculpted birds, means Ms. Bland’s choreography takes flight in our imagination.

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