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Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Sep 29, 2004 3:54 am ]
Post subject:  Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

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WHEN: Fri 15 & Sat 16 October
TICKETS: 0870 737 7737

Exploding with driving, pulsating rhythms and visual power, Joe is a riveting and witty ode to the working man. Thirty-two dancers in overcoats, fedoras and heavy boots march, stomp, strut, run, roll and leap through intricate moves on a starkly dramatic set. This world-wide tour is a tribute to the life of extraordinary choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault (1947-2002). Created twenty years ago, Joe has become a Perreault trademark work, a cult masterpiece that continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary dance today.

An unforgettable parade of souls continually transforms itself, representing everyman in all his guises - at one moment reminiscent of L.S. Lowry, at another Samuel Beckett, with movement that evokes the spirit of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Joe’s soundtrack consists entirely of the drumming footfalls of its dancers on the steeply raked stage, creating a truly compelling piece of dance theatre.

"Joe has all the elements of a cult piece. It can be compared to a film by Jarmusch or Wenders, a Beatles album, or a book by Kundera or an Andy Warhol print."
Voir (Quebec)

Jerwood Proms:
Stand Up For Dance for only £5.

<small>[ 29 September 2004, 08:02 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Jeni Rosier [ Tue Oct 12, 2004 3:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

Joe, The Rhythm of Life

Rhythm is a simple tool in the creation of a dance work and provides countless possibilities in terms of movement dynamics, the structure and climax, and the relationship between dancers. Two shows immediately spring to mind when discussing rhythm, Riverdance and Stomp. Both these acclaimed productions use rhythm in different manners for entertainment. Joe, a contemporary dance work known as a ‘cult sensation’ in Canada, provides us with a third take on the use of rhythm; as a tool to make a political statement through dance.

As the pulse of movement, rhythm forms the supporting structure of the dance as a whole – a bridge binding the sound and movement together. It can be argued that all movement has rhythm, whether in the music or soundtrack, or purely in the dancer’s body. It is often implicit - it is there, but it’s not the main focus; it doesn’t directly affect the meaning or theme. Stomp, Riverdance and Joe use rhythm explicitly; the noises made by the performers are an integral part of these productions. Take away the rhythmical aspect in the movement and the idea behind the work changes dramatically.

The use of rhythm in Riverdance is inextricably linked to the two other elements of the show that made it so successful: Irish step dance and spectacle. The traditional Celtic dance form provides exoticism through diversion from the everyday grind, the idea of renaissance Ireland and the consolidation of an antiquated dance form, kept alive by the Irish spirit passed through the generations. The Celtic violin and pipe music have a lot to do with these romantic notions, playing on the contemporary view of past eras.

Step dancing relies on rhythm. In fact, the genre has a genuine claim to the origins of tap. The shoes are designed to make loud clear sounds, the concentration of the dance is almost entirely on the feet and many rhythmical patterns, both simple and complex, are used. Riverdance takes the traditional and brings it up to speed with contemporary family entertainment. Recognisably based on step dancing, other winning elements are borrowed from ballet and the chorus lines of the 1920s-40s, not to mention the good-versus-evil narrative kept in contemporary culture by endless cartoons and computer games.

The hierarchy of the performers is much like that of a classical ballet. The audience is comfortable with the traditional theatre dance pyramid of principal, soloists and corps de ballet and the simple transference of this to Riverdance helps consolidate it as a show for mainstream viewers as well as dance fanatics. Step dancing can be performed as a solo, in couples or groups. Solos within dances are taken in turns and group dances often use canons. Riverdance utilises the impact made by a long chorus-line of dancers moving together, interspersed with a canon of jumps going from one end of the line to the other while the rhythm continues bold and unafraid. This spectacle, which, without the rhythm, would have been a mere copy of a can-can, was one of the points that makes the show memorable.

Stomp was created from a completely different angle. The idea of percussion and its possibilities forms the basis of the show. Each section starts with one performer playing with the sound of a broom, matchbox or countless other props. As other performers join in the rhythm builds in complexity, each one picking up a new beat. Pedestrian movement and hip-hop sequences are linked together to punctuate the rhythms.

By dressing the performers as workmen, Stomp challenges our perception of builders, caretakers and other blue-collar workers. The use of household items for rhythm, coupled with the finely honed dance sequences subverts the notion that these people are uncultured and non-creative. Furthermore, these complex rhythms require a high degree of teamwork, sensitivity and precision – not qualities generally associated with workmen.

The second focal point of the show is in the facial expression and body language. Sideways glances, cheeky changes of position and gestures show the relationships between the performers. There is a visible hierarchy of respect on stage, just as there is at work. One man always has the wrong size prop; nobody joins in when he tries to lead a new section. One man commands the respect not only of his colleagues, but of the audience too. He claps and they copy, until they can’t keep up. The audience can easily identify with these familiar portrayals of people in a work situation, therefore making the production more accessible.

Stomp also addresses the notions of masculine and feminine behaviour. At the beginning of the show, for example, three men enter one by one and adjust their trousers and noisily clear their nasal passages in a foul manner before taking their positions. The fourth performer to enter is female, but she does just the same, receiving surprised looks from the men. This comedy becomes the core of the show alongside the thrill of the build up and possibilities of props such as newspapers and ******* sinks.

Similarly to Stomp, Jean Pierre Perreault’s Joe has no musical accompaniment. The 32 dancers wear loud shoes, with which they stamp out the steps, running, marching and jumping without the normal quiet feet expected from contemporary dancers. Where Riverdance uses the loud footwear to produce complex rhythms for spectacular entertainment, in Joe the dancers’ boots aid the explicit political comment. Perreault does not use complex rhythms. The vocabulary is mixed between these pedestrian movements and contemporary sequences incorporating contractions, torso bends and jumps, but the use of rhythm mainly with the feet, but also with the voice is an essential support to the works themes of social conformity and the notion of the individual in society

One section features the dancers in a block marching on a square path around the stage. The even beats of their feet become a drone. Singularly, dancers break free, moving to their own rhythms, out of time with the constant military beat of the others. The beat drowns out the lone sounds of the individual as his flailing arms and torso become increasingly frantic. It seems to be the beat that causes his distress, however, it is the same relentless beat that draws him back into the block. There are very simple tools used here, for example as the marching speeds up the pressure of conformity is amplified.

Perreault’s regimented movements in Joe are visually representative, while using rhythm to highlight the conformity theme. One movement that dominates a whole section does so using steps very similar to tap dance. The dancers face stage left with their weight on one leg. The other leg brushes fwd, catching the heel on the floor as the supporting leg bends. The leg immediately brushes back, catching the ball of the foot on the floor and the sequence is finished with a toe tap behind. The resulting rhythm is an even 1, 2, 3, while the aesthetics of the leg extending forward and then bending back while the body falls and rises has the effect of a goose step on the spot. It is the rhythm that consolidates the conjured up image of soldiers marching relentlessly through captured towns.

The lack of rhythm at points in the work also contributes to its meaning. For example, one section involves the group jumping on the spot, producing loud, even beats. They run from one position to another, flocking into different groups, but like the canon in Riverdance, the beat remains. When they stop, the stage seems eerily quiet. One man walks away from the group; his single footsteps are a lonely sound in comparison with the unison jumping.

Despite being very different shows with different aims and audiences, using rhythm is not the only thing that links them. All these works have political connotations, whether serious or comical, and their uses of rhythm are important to these statements. By jazzing up the traditional music and adding some glitz to the step dancing, Ireland’s national identity is developed and consolidated through Riverdance. Stomp shows us that a group of dirty working class men and women are not always what they seem, while reflecting the work-place politics of gender and respect. The rhythm supports the comedy in the show, playing on the idea that the whole thing could fall apart or be transformed into something new if someone misses or changes their beat.

Joe’s political aspect is more complex. The rhythm works in conjunction with many other elements such as costume, set, and contemporary dance vocabulary to build the theme. The constant even beats of the footsteps, jumps and voices, particularly when the group march while another dances alone, serve to illustrate that the world carries on as a mass no matter what the individual is doing. The work also illustrates the notion of people in herds, following each other; jumping on the bandwagon. If Perreault had chosen to use music, this work would have been completely different; the notions he addressed would still be visible, but his utilisation of rhythms underline these statements.

Without the rhythms, none of these works would have the impact or critical acclaim in their separate fields of entertainment. Riverdance would have to rely heavily on the romanticism and exoticism. With a complete re-working of the show, Stomp would become an abstract comedy production, unrecognisable from its current state. Joe would still have the political connotations, but it would lack the impact and, most importantly for contemporary dance, most of its unique quality.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Oct 12, 2004 6:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

Jeni, very many thanks for this thoughtful analysis, linking works we wouldn't normally associate together. Are you going to see the performances at Sadler's?

Author:  Juliasw [ Tue Oct 19, 2004 2:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

Fondation Jean-Pierre Perrault ‘Joe’
Sadler’s Wells, 15 October 2004
Reviewed by Julia Skene-Wenzel

Urban alienation, its effect on the individual and the loneliness within a crowd are all central and re-occurring themes, since the impact of the industrial revolution on mankind. Modernism, as well as Post-modernism, has given rise to countless depictions of its reality. Twenty-one years after its creation, the Fondation Jean-Pierre Perrault introduces ‘Joe’ to British audiences. Hailed as a ‘cult-classic’, it portrays the average ‘Joe’ within the city mass.

Thirty-two performers, dressed in brown-greyish overcoats, hats and heavy boots, move across a bare stage. Accompanied solemnly by the sound of their steps, the group slides, walks and marches to the rhythm of urban living. At times, individuals break off to confront, or hide from the crowd, but no one can withstand its relentless pulse for long. Struggling between conformity and defiance, mundane movement patterns blend seamlessly with more stylistic phrases that allow the dancers to reach out and break the grid. However, it is the ever changing body percussion that suspends the work in a constant state of agitated tension.

Some see Jean-Pierre Perrault’s work as the portrayal of the ‘destructive forces of conformity’, while others are struck by the struggle of the human spirit to break free - and indeed both elements are present. On the outset the group dominates the stage, but as the piece unfolds, individuals emerge – some taller, some softer, thinner or more forceful. Through subtle differences, the Canadian choreographer plays with his audience’s perception: is it a faceless crowd, or a gathering of people? Perrault himself insists that “no matter what happens to this or that individual, a flame still flickers within them. The soul can never be extinguished.” He created ‘Joe’ in 1984 and it became his signature piece after its premier by the newly established Fondation Jean-Pierre Perrault. His premature death in 2002 brought an early end to his remarkable career. His legacy has been described as ‘works of great poignancy, a beauty of essence, community, individual dignity, loneliness and passion’. The 2004 world tour of ‘Joe’ marks the twentieth anniversary of the Fondation and is homage to its creator.

In London, the Sadler’s Wells audience showed a mixed reaction. While some left the auditorium at the earliest convenience, others gave the company an enthusiastic standing ovation. Two decades after its creation the work has lost some of its novelty, but it is not lacking impact, or relevance.

Author:  Lyndsey Winship [ Wed Oct 20, 2004 4:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

I knew nothing of Jean Pierre Perreault before I saw Joe in Edinburgh in the summer and it's definitely a striking work and a very accessible one - often shown on Canadian TV apparently.

But I also saw a video of some of Perreault's other works, which were completely different to Joe - very personal, tender and emotive, with evocative soundtracks. They actually interested me much more, but I'm not sure they'll ever get performed in this country, which is a shame.

<small>[ 20 October 2004, 06:49 AM: Message edited by: Lyndsey Winship ]</small>

Author:  kurinuku [ Wed Oct 20, 2004 8:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault

the Guardian

One Joe manages a tense face-off with another, but he is no match for the faceless crowd, who simply trample him, oblivious to his defiant posturing. There are odd moments of cartoonish humour, and just a glimpse of inner life...

Author:  eschwyzer [ Thu Oct 21, 2004 4:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

lyndsey--where can we see these other tender, emotive works of jpp's you mention?
i, too, saw JOE for the first time in edinburgh, and was struck by its musicality, actually. i found myself closing my eyes to listen better, as i often do with chamber music. it would be interesting to see how he works with a separate musical score rather than just the percussion of the body.

Author:  Jeni Rosier [ Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

Yes, I did see the performance in London and I thought it was a really striking way of addressing social politics through dance.

Author:  Lyndsey Winship [ Thu Oct 28, 2004 2:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

Elizabeth - I'm not sure about how to see the other JPP works. I think there may be a video in production, I'll investigate. Think there are some excerpts on the company site

There's also a documentary, Jean Pierre Perreault: Giant Steps, that I believe was shown at the NFT but I don't know whether there's much dancing in it. Sorry, that's not much help is it?

Author:  Nikiya [ Wed Nov 17, 2004 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault: 15 & 16 October

I saw the NFB documentary "Giant Steps" recently at the moving pictures festival in Toronto. It is worth watching if you can find it. There are quite a few extended scenes from his work, as well as interviews (sadly, he passed away before the last scheduled interview was conducted).

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