writers on dancing


Conformity and Corruption

“Forgotten Consciousness” Meeting Apart”
Conceived and Directed by Ludovic Jolivet
Dance Place presents CityDance Ensemble
Dance Place
Washington, D.C.
October 16, 2005

by Naima Prevots
copyright©2005 by Naima Prevots

“Forgotten Consciousness: Meeting Apart” was an hour long presentation focused on images designed to portray contemporary life corrupted by capitalistic consumerism, along with conformity to external ideals of success. Jolivet created continuous video sequences and  choreography for two people,  juxtaposing  live and filmed material. In the beginning video section we saw urban images of cars in heavy traffic, and business attired people with briefcases, while words flashed across the screen, such as “evil”, “masturbation”, “judgement”, “confusion”, “conformity”. The woman of the duet began moving first, as if chained to her work and routine, represented by square papers clipped to a clothesline. The man was next, moving in a cage, confined and limited while trying to reach beyond his situation with sharp arm movements and torso folding and expanding. As the piece progressed, the video featured both dancers, with increasing emphasis on briefcases, business suits, and lack of  connecting while coming and going on elevators, trains, park benches, airports and sidewalks. Live choreography mirrored the video, as the duet progressed with even more sense of oppression in a spiritually bereft environment. Unfortunately,  video and movements became didactic and not illuminating. Constant repetition, albeit with variations, did not produce greater insight into society or the human condition, but reinforced the sense that images probed with more depth and subtlety would produce greater meaning and artistic satisfaction.

There was no program note explaining the title. It is possible to interpret “Forgotten Consciousness” in terms of Jolivet’s intention to show that our consciousness has been lost through absorption in following the rules for material success dictating how we should live, work, buy and spend. The second part of the title “Meeting Apart” was most likely meant to send the message that our feelings and values have been corrupted by forced conformism and consumerism. The two people in the duet had problems coming together physically and emotionally, impeded by their business suits, briefcases, and busy regimented and ordered lives.

The performance consisted of several sections with both movement and video. The first section was the strongest and most distinct, with video and movement complimenting each other. Ha-Chi Yu, the female dancer, emerged from the wings shortly after the video began. She had fine focus and concentration as she moved slowly across the stage, with shuffling feet, arms shooting out of her body, and torso leaning and straining. She had on a white mask, and  a cord strung across the stage enclosed and defined her space. As she repeated this line across the stage, her movements became more anxious, her briefcase appeared, and her hands became chained to off stage cords. The man appeared next from the other side of the stage bound by a harness in the cage, danced with great clarity by Bruno Augusto.  Also in a white mask, he strained to emerge from his confined environment by thrusting arms up and out, torso over and sideways, and legs taking him around in circles. The video component for this first section consisted mostly of cars and people at a busy urban intersection filmed in Washington. The words that kept flashing across the screen were distracting, and did not really add to the meaning or ambiance. It is conceivable that a few words might have had some impact, but the constant barrage was difficult to absorb, even if the assumption was that bombarding the senses would create an effect.

 One section of video followed that was composed of advertising flashes, focused on selling objects and bodies, and this section repeated later as well.  The major portion of the following video segments consisted of scenes where we saw the two dancers in a variety of environments, mostly going in different directions and not coming together. They were not masked on the screen, although there was not much expression in their faces. Occasionally their bodies touched, and their lips almost came together. The dancers on the stage mirrored the screen figures, but appeared much less human, distanced and small, with white masks still covering their faces. The video segments seemed to take on more power than the live dancers as the evening progressed. The wanted correlation between these got lost as it became more difficult to watch both, and the choreography did not develop a great deal beyond the original statements.

 The piece became more problematic as it continued, with significant repetition of the same images and movements. Rather than lead us towards connections and revelations, Jolivet chose to show us the same scenes. Repetition can be very powerful, but in this case it had the effect of creating a loss of interest and a wish for more understanding and depth. The message seemed over-simplified after the first video and choreography segments, the people less interesting, and the video overstated. It is possible that the message was in the last segment. Here the woman emerged in a double mask, and a long white dress. The man also emerged in a double mask, and both their faces and the back of their heads were covered. In the final scene, they remove their masks. They come together for a moment, with their eyes and foreheads meeting. Perhaps they have overcome the evils of contemporary society, but we are not sure why or how, and what this means. The challenge would have been to provoke us into thinking, questioning and feeling. As the program ended, it felt more like a beginning lecture about society’s problems, without digging from generalities to complexities.

Ludovic Jolivet created this work through a commission by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as part of Performing Arts for Everyone and the Millennium Stage with additional support from CityDance Ensemble. The premiere took place at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage September 22 and 23.

Volume 3, No. 40
October 31, 2005

copyright ©2005 Naima Prevots



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last updated on October 31, 2005