BREATHING FLESH, BREATHING ARCHITECTURE
by Donald Hutera
Earlier in his career Flemish choreographer Frédéric Flamand worked with Polish theatre guru Jerzy Grotowski and writer William Burroughs. In dance he has staged site-specific events in a swimming-pool, pavilion, refinery and museum. He is also exploring, with increasing frequency, the interface between live performance and new technology. This has led to projects with architects like Diller + Scofidio, with whom he made Moving Target (seen in Umbrella 2001), and Jean Nouvel, his co-creator on the recent Body/Work/Leisure. These are people who are as interested in the human body as they are in finished buildings.
Add to this list the name Zaha Hadid. Metapolis, her elaborate, high-concept collaboration with Flamand, is a dizzying, dazzling vision of what lies beyond our current urban sprawl and information overload. Lasting 70 minutes, it’s a fluid, many-layered kinetic conversation between real and virtual dancers, sound, light and scenography.
As a man with a multi-disciplinary vision, Flamand is less interested in collage than “an integration or contamination of languages.” In Hadid’s work, he says, “I am aware of that nearly utopian longing to release construction from the laws of gravity and to break away from the existing codes of her discipline, two imperatives that are behind my approach.” Their common goal was “to evoke a utopian city structured by a play of opposites: fluidity/rupture, private/public, individual/public, moving/unmoving, order/chaos.”
Their starting point was an interrogation of what Flamand cites as “the kind of city we know more and more, like Los Angeles, where there is no centre any more. An artificial city. I try to relate dance to the world in which we are living. If we were in the 16th century I would use perspectives. But we are not. We are in a new world, and also a crazy imitation of that world. We live in a bombardment of images, but we know they lie. The body cannot lie. But it is being replaced more and more by machines and technology. In this performance we can send an image inside the form of a t-shirt. The idea is to give a human form to the image. In this exchange, the body begins to be urban and the city corporal.”
“Our ambitions were very much together,’ Hadid adds. ‘The connection between movement, costumes and set is seamless. The idea of public space could become much more layered and fluid. The point was that the space itself could dance.”
The ever-shifting centrepiece of Hadid’s designs is an elegant trio of silver bridges. Costuming also plays a vital role, whether it’s a single-armed, one-legged suit or a skirt of cushions. Thanks to the “blue screen” technique, these odd surfaces function as screens. Film footage (cityscapes, milling pedestrians, fairground rides) is first projected onto bridges, clothing and swatches of free-wheeling fabric, and then blown up onto a huge screen backdrop.
Where is the human being in all of this? Absorbed and overwhelmed by a stream of busy, bewildering imagery. Flamand is genuinely concerned about the rhythms and qualities of contemporary life. His fourteen dancers rush and swoop along to an eclectic soundtrack that combines hums, throbs and whistles with, say, saucy shards of retro-techno Berlioz. The result is a work of technical sophistication containing much to look at and think about.
WHO: CHARLEROI DANSES/PLAN K
WHAT: METAPOLIS PROJECT 972
WHEN: SUN 27 - MON 28 OCT
WHERE: QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL
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<small>[ 09-09-2002, 01:18: Message edited by: Donald Hutera ]</small>
This interview was posted by Stuart Sweeney on behalf of Donald Hutera and first appeared in Dance Umbrella News.
Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook.
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