Intellect And Kinetics Collide – Angelin Preljocaj, choreographer – Brief Article
BALLET PRELJOCAJ YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA FEBRUARY 8, 2001
This seems to be Angelin Preljocaj’s year in San Francisco. In addition to bringing his own company, Ballet Preljocaj, with the 1996 Paysage apres la bataille to town in February, San Francisco Ballet will present the Paris Opera Ballet in his Le Parc in May. Besides Paysage, San Francisco Performances also offered two evenings of Preljocaj’s works on film. Curated by Charlotte Shoemaker, this Dance/Screen series started three years ago. While an excellent idea, since it contextualizes the work of the to-be-presented artists, the series, unfortunately, has yet to find much of an audience. In Preljocaj’s case, the screened material was particularly welcome since it so clearly showed the maturation that has taken place since the terminally self-indulgent Liqueurs de Chair from 1988.
Paysage purports to look at the process of creation from two opposite points of view: Marcel Duchamp talks about art-making as an inherently intellectual process, while Joseph Conrad writes of it as an instinctual endeavor. These artists may have stimulated Preljocaj’s thinking–they are heard in voice-overs–but more than anything Paysage is a physical exploration of veering between states of extreme being. It’s a work in which static imagery competes with hypermobility in a series of apparently unrelated episodes whose cumulative effect, however, builds into an emotionally telling, convincing whole.
Conceptually clear and rigorously performed by Preljocaj’s twelve superbly trained dancers (and seven local ones at the end), Paysage impressed with the range of visual and kinetic imagination, even though some of the individual scenes seemed unnecessarily protracted and some of the imagery skirted the trite. Still, it was sheer delight to watch this choreographer build and deflate intensity or create transitions out of small movement fragments.
Paysage opened on a snapshot of perfect stillness, each dancer standing alone as if time had stopped. Then, as if the clock had started up again, the men and women cautiously reconfigured themselves into increasingly passionate couple dancing, only to drift apart with three of the women left crumpled, detritus-like, on the floor. Arrested or slowed-down motion was a recurring theme: women in negligees rearranging themselves into alluring poses; a gangster-style shootout in which arching bodies sailed through the air like autumn leaves; a wafting trio of handholding men at the center of an intense game of musical chairs. A Josephine Baker-inspired hip- and breast-swinging duet, however, came close to being offensive.
Paysage was not without its sense of humor: A pompous radio interview with Duchamps accompanied the most simplistic of orangutan maneuvers; a woman slithering over three naked men looked more comical than erotic. And what about the couple being devoured by polar bears? Were they collaborating with the nasty beasts?
Also shown on the film series was the somewhat repetitive Portrait en Mouvement (1997); the surrealistic duet Un Trait d’Union (1992), set in an empty room filling up with Cezanne apples; and the splendid L’Anoure (1997), in which Preljocaj innovatively worked with narrative structures.
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