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Imperfect Dancers Company of Italy in Concert

'Thinking Outside the Box 1 & 2' and 'Le Sacre Du Printemps'

by Carmel Morgan

December 10, 2011 -- Lansburgh Theatre, Washington DC

Paul Gordon Emerson, founder and former artistic director of the now defunct CityDance Ensemble, heads up Company E, a new contemporary dance company/performing arts presenter in Washington, DC. Company E intends to promote an ongoing series of performances featuring diverse international artists. In December 2011, Company E, in cooperation with the Embassy of Italy, among others, brought to DC the Imperfect Dancers Company from Pisa, Italy. Both dance pieces presented at downtown DC’s Lansburgh Theatre were choreographed by Imperfect Dancers’ Artistic Director Walter Matteini.

First up was a 45-minute piece called “Thinking Outside the Box 1 & 2.” A flimsy, angled, box-like structure stood at one back corner of the stage, while a flat wall stood on the opposite side. Some dancers emerged from behind the structure, fingers sliding across its edges. Others literally climbed the wall. In between, the company’s eight dancers paired in interesting combinations, including some strong male duets. A few dancers undressed on stage, matter-of-factly changing from one costume to another. A tall woman roamed topless across the stage several times. Despite the nudity and some intimate couplings, the dancers appeared mostly insular, as if orbiting in their own worlds. Much of the movement echoed the sharp angles of the set. I glimpsed some unique odd gestures, my favorite being when a dancer, with one hand, lifted her other hand off the floor and then dropped it with a thud. The music – listed in the program as Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel – was supplemented with spacey-sounding electronic beeps, whooshes, buzzes, etc., and even once by several quick, loud exhales by the dancers. While I enjoyed some of the unconventional choreography, the work was long, slow, and ultimately inscrutable.

“Le Scare Du Printemps (The Rite of Spring),” using Stravinsky’s well known music, followed intermission. I had been hoping to see something completely different in the performance’s second half, but to my eye the two works on the program were choreographically very similar in style. However, if “Thinking Outside the Box 1 & 2” was inscrutable, “Le Sacre Du Printemps,” seemed even more incomprehensible and purposely absurd. Many people complain that contemporary dance is hard to understand. Matteini’s “Le Scare Du Printemps” is exactly the sort of dance many viewers find frustrating. Ping pong balls showered from the ceiling, and streams of powdery sand poured from above, all for no apparent reason, other than to be visually arresting.

A dance doesn’t have to have any particular meaning, of course. But when a dance toys with meaning in a half-hearted attempt to appear profound, it’s annoying. If “Le Scare Du Printemps” had been a farce, poking fun at all of the nonsensical dance pieces that try to be deep, it might have been amusing, but the dance was quite serious, and thus was seriously ridiculous. Swinging ropes, dancers in dark suits with blood stained shirts, and a man clothed in a skirt of garbage does not necessarily add up to a good dance piece. Most of us lament the destruction of the environment, and most of us hold some hostility toward suits (whether we wear them ourselves or have to deal with people who do), but just because you toss those elements into a dance and set it to Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” doesn’t make the dance enlightening and worthwhile.

The premiere of the ballet for which the score for “Le Scare Du Printemps” was composed famously resulted in a riot. The Imperfect Dancers Company caused no riot. Instead, upon leaving the theatre there were a lot of baffled faces belonging to audience members whose soul hadn’t been stirred. Stravinsky’s music brought the power of shock. Matteini’s dance delivered only unsatisfying weirdness for the sake of being weird. This Italian troupe is unlikely to win over those who find contemporary dance impenetrable.

A final note on the company’s name: perfect or not, the dancers were highly skilled. A few of the male dancers were on the short side, and one woman seemed quite tall. Yet according to Lisa Traiger’s December 9, 2011 Washington Post interview with Matteini, the company’s name does not derive from any perceived physical imperfections, but rather from the dancers’ constant strive for perfection and the fact imperfection is the starting point for everyone.


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