Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Reconceived Choreography Echos Altered Music

Aurélie Dupont and Diana Vishneva rehearsing the reconstruction of “B/olero” (courtesy of SFDFF, from the film description Web page for “Répétition(s)”)

This past weekend I wrote about a film that will be presented during the San Francisco Dance Film Festival (SFDFF), which (as I put it) “entailed rethinking the music as much as rethinking the choreography.” The title of the film was Akram Khan’s Giselle; and this reflected the fact that Kahn created a dance that departed radically from the original nineteenth-century choreography danced to a score by Vincenzo Lamagna, whose resemblance to the original score by Adolphe Adam was as minimal as could be imagined. The premise behind Kahn’s creation can also be found in another much shorter film entitled “Répétition(s).”

Those who know a bit of French probably know that répétition is the noun for “rehearsal.” Over the course of about 45 minutes, the viewer observes Ohad Naharin reconstructing a dance he had originally made for his own Batsheva Dance Company. The project was initiated by Russian dancer Diana Vishneva, who wished to include it in her CONTEXT Festival in Moscow. The work is a duet in which Vishneva was joined by French dancer Aurélie Dupont. The title of the dance that Naharin taught them was “B/olero.” The film begins in the Naharin’s Tel Aviv studios and concludes in Moscow.

The slash sign should serve as a warning that Naharin’s choreography will bear no resemblance to any choreographic setting of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero.” For that matter the music made for a radical departure from what Ravel had composed, although not so extreme that one could not detect vestiges of Ravel’s efforts. The music was created with electronic synthesis gear by Isao Tomita, reworking Ravel’s score for a recording released as The Ravel Album in 1979. While, for the most part, Tomita used his electronics to invent new sonorities to replace Ravel’s orchestration, he would occasionally inject “special effects” that required synthesis technology and reconceived the coda as one last personal stamp on the process.

Nevertheless, the film is definitely more about making the dance than it is about the dance itself. What may be most interesting is the flexibility that went into this recreation. For the most part the rehearsals worked on both Naharin and four Batsheva assistants reconstructing the steps. However, there were passages in which freer rein was allowed to the dancers, providing more fidelity to the spirit than to the flesh. In directing the film, Catherine Ginier-Gillet and Luc Pagès developed a “narrative of creation” that never tries the patience of the viewer (or, for that matter, the listener wishing Naharin had used Ravel instead); and much of the effectiveness of that narrative probably owes much to Pagès’ editing skills.

It is also worth reflecting on the extent that Naharin’s choreography plays on the English noun “repetition.” It would be fair to say that the entire dance explores different ways in which that noun may be realized. Not only are there “echo effects” from one dancer to another; but also there are sequences in which a single dancer repeats a pattern, often with as little variation from one iteration to the next as is possible. I even toyed with the possibility that Naharin had read Hermann Weyl’s 1952 Symmetry monograph and then decided to realize in dance the diversity of forms of symmetry that Weyl had analyzed. (I concluded that Naharin probably had better things to do than wrestle with Weyl’s mathematics!)

The screening of “Répétition(s)” will take place at 4:30  p.m. on Tuesday, November 5. It will be held at the Delancey Street Screening Room, located at 600 The Embarcadero, just south of the intersection with Brannan Street. Individual ticket prices will be $13 and $15. Both single tickets and festival passes may be purchased through hyperlinks on the event page for this film.

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