The French choreographer Christian Rizzo writes in a succinct programme note: “On behalf of the company I would like to say how happy we are to be performing at Sadler’s Wells for you this evening, however our thoughts are very much with our friends and colleagues in Paris following Friday’s tragic events.”
The all-male cast of eight dancers and two drummers present a show, d’après une histoire vraie (translated: ‘based on a true story’) that is very much open to interpretation. It won’t change anyone’s way of thinking. For example, a capitalist mind will see that each character participates fully in the dance of life but is ultimately free to behave as he wishes, and according to what he feels he can get out of it. A socialist mind will focus more on how the company works best when they work with each other, often in solidarity, and therefore strength is achieved through unity, and each dancer pulling (or pushing) the same way.
In one sense this production is almost too repetitious. The group put their hands in the air, and in the not-so-old adage, wave ‘em like they just don’t care. They do this repeatedly, and just as frequently enjoy putting their hands around each other’s waists such that they form a solid line, before resuming their movements without never quite breaking out into the traditional Irish dance made famous by Riverdance. I thought the stage lighting was deficient in places – there was one scene in particular when I struggled to see what was going on. In hindsight, the scene in question may have been set outside at night, though this wasn’t made distinctly clear.
Crucially, the drummers are quite rightly given their chance to demonstrate their professionalism and skill, filling a void left by the dancers who all leave the stage at one point. We didn’t get an interval, but a musical interlude instead, and in the silence of such a respectful audience I lost all sense of time and place, entranced by an ever-building number that reached a tremendous peak before the dancers returned and resumed their on-stage party.
Partying is the characters’ forte – they never seem to be doing much else except enjoying themselves. I have never been a regular attendee of dance nights out, but from the nights I do recall, it’s quite typical for people to leave the dancefloor, grab a drink and/or rest, and then return. These dancers behaved similarly, lying on the floor while they ‘recovered’. Aside from a recreation of a nightclub atmosphere, though, is an exploration of the themes of community and belonging, and of the shared experience.
At the start of the performance, mind you, there was no music at all. The company danced in perfect harmony, completely unaccompanied. I thought it remarkable that no rhythm or melody was required or could be relied on. In jeans and barefoot, this company presents contemporary dance with vibrancy and excitement.
With recent events still fresh in the audience’s mind, there’s something extremely powerful about this particular curtain call: a French dance company standing shoulder to shoulder on a London stage in one accord. This production may be over-simplistic in its narrative, but is a timely reminder that we should all remember to enjoy ourselves and, every so often, live in the moment. A beautiful and graceful performance, over all too soon.
Review by Chris Omaweng
French choreographer, designer, director and visual artist Christian Rizzo presents the UK premiere of d’après une histoire vraie (based on a true story) at Sadler’s Wells on Monday 16 & Tuesday 17 November. This explosive, expressive choreography for eight male dancers is Rizzo’s exploration of Turkish war dances.
Rizzo takes inspiration from his memories of a folk dance show at a festival in Istanbul in 2004 and the feelings that this masculine, Turkish folklore performance evoked in him. Channelling these emotions into d’après une histoire vraie, Rizzo examines dance as it relates to communities, and how movement ties individuals together.
d’après une histoire vraie
Sadler’s Wells, EC1R 4TN
Monday 16 & Tuesday 17 November