Urgency, Power and Sensibility
Compagnie Marie Chouinard goes for naked emotion
By Francis Phang
les 24 preludes de chopin / le cri du monde
This is Singapore's first import of a dance performance that is categorised as R(A). In les 24 preludes de chopin, the dancers came out with Mohawk hair attachments and wore black sheer clothing. The ladies had bodysuits while the men had tights. Black straps (of what resembled leather) were attached to the bodysuits at strategic positions: to shield their nipples and genitals. Each male dancer had a vertical black strap strategically positioned on their tights to shield their genitals.
Marie Chouinard finds mirth and humour in Chopin's music. Through these short pieces of music, the dancers use dance and music to play with each other. Their fun is expressed through solos, duets, trios and group movements. Marie Chouinard displays her ease working within a classic structure and exploring subtle states of mind. Besides humorous acts, there are also romantic and pensive scenes. This is a delectable starter to the choreographer's much weightier and powerful main work.
In contrast to the light-hearted les 24 preludes de chopin, le cri du monde is full of (artistic director and choreographer) Marie Chouinard's explosiveness and movements to challenge the dancers' limits. A study of morphological division, this deeply moving work stems from architectural observations of the body, probing the forces and tensions within us.
Rehearsal master and assistant artistic director, Daniel Ethier, says that Marie Chouinard's work exalts the human body and uses the human body to explore human existence. Using le cri du monde as an example, through the dancers' radical movements, the audience can soak in the complexity of human emotion.
In le cri du monde, throughout the forty minutes, the dancers employ twisting and vibrating movements to counter the effect of gravity. This hardly gives them much chance to breathe. The audience experiences this breathless tension especially at times when the dancers behave as if they suffer from muscular dystrophy and move in unnatural ways. Frustration is expressed through silent screams. One of the female dancers, Carol Prieur, said that these radical movements bring the body and psyche to such a state that after the dance, they have to use cold compress, take painkillers or drink beer to allow their body and psyche to "cool down".
When performing le cri du monde, both male and female dancers dance topless, with a stripe painted on each body using oil pastel. The Mohawk hair attachments that they wore for les 24 preludes de chopin were removed. Each male dancer had a black vertical stripe running from the sternum to the abdominal. Each female dancer had a horizontal stripe running across the nipples. All the dancers wore pink supporters under their sheer tights. Why the nudity? Prieur explained that Marie Chouinard is highly sensitive to the human body and does not like the body to be covered by clothes. Also, this nudity has a deeper artistic goal. Under other circumstances, she would not consider being topless on stage.
Through her dancers, Marie Chouinard communicates the urgency, power and sensibility that characterised her own performances. She has also invented formal structures from which a deep and primordial humanity emerges to touch the imagination. By exploring the body's secret intelligence and inexhaustible complexity, by developing perfectly conceived formal constructions in her quest for truth and beauty, Marie Chouinard evokes the fragility of the human species within the cosmos, along with the unalloyed joy of being alive.
The Compagnie Marie Chouinard performs at Victoria Theatre on 18-19 Jun 2002 (8pm). Tickets are available from SISTIC.QLRS Vol. 1 No. 4 Jul 2002