Monday, August 27, 2012

"Cold Song"...Benoit Swan-Pouffer

France is known for many things...baguettes, the Louvre, Brigitte Bardot...and most importantly for dancers, BALLET. If it weren't for King Louis XIV, the world would not have barres and tendus, battements and degages. So it is interesting to note that some of the most innovative changes in ballet repertoire are now also coming from France, or in this case, French ex-pats living in NYC. Benoit Swan-Pouffer is the artistic director of Cedar Lake Ballet company. I simply adore the way that he plays around with the traditional conventions of the art form, while finding exciting, original material hiding just below the surface. This is your mother's ballet...and it's TOTALLY not.

MUSICALITY: The fascinating aspect of this work is Swan's ability to find accents in music that is otherwise adagio and seemingly lacking in any percussive quality. At 1:57-1:59, the female dancer creates a ticking motion with her arms that exactly mirrors the halting vocal patterns of the vocalist. Sometimes, the focus is placed on the exact moment that physical contact is made. At 0:43 there is a distinct flourish of the harpsichord that can be clearly identified as the male dancer touches the back of the female's neck...almost as if chills were running down her spine.

DANCER SYNC: Good choreography is like a good script...the "dialogue" just flows naturally, organically, without undue force or pressure. Watch the dancers at 1:42-1:46, and you will see how the arm gestures are beautifully coordinated and share the moments, taking turns "talking" to each other.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: As I said at the beginning of this piece, the element that is particularly engaging for the audience, is Swan's ability to fuse the old and new, traditional with contemporary exploration. Look at 0:21-0:32, where the female dancer begins a series of bourree balances, only to quickly melt into a contorted knock-knee position, creeping slowly across the floor. There are many delicious little surprises like this throughout the piece...and this makes for a mesmerizing viewer experience.

KUDOS to Swan for blazing new trails and expanding the notion of what movements "are" and "are not" ballet...and for challenging people to think outside their tradition perceptions of "classical" vocabulary.

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