writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

Oh, so cute!

Lyon Opera Ballet
Eisenhower Theater
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC
Thursday, April 8, 2004

by George Jackson
copyright 2004 by George Jackson
published 12 April 2004

Yorgos Loukos' Lyon Opera Ballet is into movement cleverness rather than choreography. Not long ago it brought us Maguy Marin's insufferable Cendrillon, this time Philippe Decoufle's ever so cute Tricodex.

The piece is a series of skits which shows life evolving. Topically, the progression is from marine creatures to a human Adam and Eve. Technically, in movement terms, it is from Alwin Nikolai to Elizabeth Streb. There are some byways.

In the beginning, after the curtain went up, darkness covered the stage and then, behold, light—ingenious lighting that made a bed of sea anemones not only fluoresce but also helped them undulate so convincingly that the cast seemed to consist not of dancers but specimens. Decoufle gradually gathered an astonishing number of species into his arc—frogmen with flippers instead of ballet slippers, a spider with pointe shoes on her hands as well as feet, octopuses, hen, camel, unicorns plus others from a book of beasts by the artist and naturalist Luigi Serafini. Translating Serafini's imaginary encyclopedia onto the stage was made possible by 25 dancers, about 75 movement tricks (my estimate), and 150 seductive yet dehumanizing costumes.

Tricodex adds up to quite a show, melding Disney and contemporary European movement theater. The latter doesn't condone intermissions. If there had been one, I might have forgotten to go back to my seat and thereby missed seeing how Decoufle's menagerie grew to include cartoon people and cartoon dancing. One detour on the evolutionary path was that of body builders—a stage full of prissy, narcissist muscle men lit from above so that their every flection showed. There were circus ballerinas suspended on ropes and spinning fast, plus love pairs from the Romantic ballet with its floating females and their stalwart partners.

Everything in Tricodex was carefully controlled, cautiously distanced so that one couldn't swoon with the romantics, become aroused by the erotics or even empathize with Adam and Eve as they groomed themselves and beheld how almost naked they were. (I think Decoufle did not shown our ancestral parents eating the tempting apple, but I might have missed that.) The cast for the performance consisted of trained ballet dancers. Given that the Lyon repertory requires them to use their skills only as tricks and not to dance, and that not one of them can be identified by name, what motivates the performers in this company?

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 13
April 12, 2004

© 2004 George Jackson




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last updated on December 29,, 2003