Angelin Preljocaj/Ballet Preljocaj
Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House
Novermber 3-6, 2004
by Nancy Dalva
© 2004 by Nancy Dalva
They were taut, focused, inward, yet you felt them absorb the energy
of their audience, and fuel their movement with it. Their costumes were
brief and functional, revealing the leanest of muscle, the sparest of
physiques. They were economical of gesture and plumb of line, with turn
in the norm–so much so that even the slightest deviation from the
parallel registered on the viewer. Their arms were always in motion, but
never decorative. In fact, there was nothing about them that was decorative.
Even those relying on mechanical devices were as one with their machinery,
generating a functional momentum that translated to the viewer as heroic.
After Ballet Preljocaj earlier in the week, how marvelous to see the New
York City marathon front runners, rounding off the Queensboro Bridge and
heading down the half block to First Avenue and 59th Street. There they
took the corner with great economy, and sped off toward the north like
antelope. What a tonic!
Angelin Preljocaj's "Near Life Experience" is decorative, complicated,
symbolist, at once vague—as to meaning—and weirdly specific—as
to sets, costumes, and props. These include balls of red yarn, life guard-type
chairs, wine glasses attached to body, glass spheres, and other paraphernalia
that make the French choreographer look like the New Age Alwin Nikolai,
with a little Merce Cunningham and a little Butoh thrown in. The eighty-minute
work seems to take place in a glacial crevasse, bright, shadowed, white,
luminous. It seems to be about being about to be born, or being about
to die, or various states that, in some lesser way, mimic these conditions.
(Sex, for instance.) Being French, the company wears chic costumes—white
or black shirts and briefs giving way to creamy lingerie giving way to
half nudity. You have no doubt that the company of twelve is talented,
beautiful, smooth, desirable.
And you have no doubt that Angelin Prejlocaj is a deeply talented choreographer
whose character somehow precludes any kind of artistic progression. Is
he easily bored? Is he afraid of repetition? Is he readily influenced
by his latest experiences, whether physical or psychic? Who can say? Whatever
the pathology or motivation, his chronology of works seems to be is a
series of one-of-a-kinds. This dance was the least coherent seen here,
the most messily symbolic, the most gimmick-ridden. (Dancers connect by
mouth with red yarn, for instance.) And yet, there was some sumptuous,
precise movement—in particular, a quartet with one woman surrounded
by three men, who either have her contained her out of concern and kindness,
or have her trapped like a fly in a web. The leaps into their arms, onto
their thighs, the near-flight of the ballerina (Claudia de Smet)—this
But insufficient compensation for the gap between the choreographer and
the audience—one that the company, in this dance, could not bridge.
Something interesting happened to Mr. Preljocaj; he fell into, or impelled
himself into, some state (or states) whose experience is symbolically
replicated here, to small avail. Instead, by the time the evening threaded
its way to the final image–copulation, and the "birth"
of a naked man covered in a creamy, vernix-like substance from what seemed
to be a red felt ball, the urge to decipher gave way to the urge to pass
out, and torpor was all. Sleep is of course another kind of abandon, so
perhaps the response was mimetic. Then again, maybe not.
in "Near Life Experience" at BAM. Photo: Jack Vartoogian.
2, No. 43
November 15, 2004
©2004 by Nancy Dalva
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Kathrine Sorley Walker
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