BBEALS

Opera House, Wellington

28/03/2015 - 28/03/2015

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

24/03/2015 - 25/03/2015

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

18/03/2015 - 18/03/2015

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

13/03/2015 - 13/03/2015

Dunedin Fringe 2015

Production Details



An international collaboration between Footnote New Zealand Dance and French company Danses en L’R, Bbeals is an entrancing new dance work for all ages that begins its journey at Jennifer Beal’s character in the quintessential 80s film Flashdance. As well as movement, Bbeals involves original music and theatre.

This thought provoking work by Eric Languet, accompanied by live music from cast member Yann Costa, also draws on biblical events from the Tower of Babel to the Great Flood to reflect on the individual confronted with the group, and the question of responsibility.

What are you ready to believe in order to be happy?

French dancer and choreographer Eric Languet fell in love with New Zealand when he was dancing with the Royal New Zealand Ballet from 1988-98. A principal dancer with the company, he became a New Zealand citizen and created a dozen very well received dance works from the full length story ballet Alice (in Wonderland) to shorter contemporary works.

After a decade in New Zealand, Languet headed home to establish his own dance company, Dances en l’R, collaborate with artists from the region, work with dancers with disabilities, and direct the multidisciplinary dance training programme, The Hangar. In the last 15 years, his company has gained an international reputation for excellent contemporary dance and they regularly tour to large festivals, including Avignon and Marseilles in France.

Languet invited Footnote New Zealand Dance to Reunion as artists in residence at The Hangar, for a month in November 2014, to collaborate with Dances en l’R in producing Bbeals. After further development in Wellington studios in February 2015, Footnote and Danses en L’R proudly tour Bbeals around New Zealand in March 2015, before returning to Reunion for performances there.

DATES À LA RÉUNION

Le Tampon 
Théâtre Luc Donat 
le 4 avril 2015 
(en partenariat avec Le Séchoir)

Saint Benoit 
Conservatoire Gramoun Lélé 
le vendredi 10 avril 2015 
(en partenariat avec Les Bambous)

Saint Denis 
Théâtre du Grand Marché
le 14 avril 2015


Footnote New Zealand Dance: Kosta Bogoievski, Emmanual Reynaud, Lana Philips, Emma Dellabafca, Alexandra Ford

Danses en L'R cie Eric Languet:  Fanny SKURA (Belgique), Yann COSTA (France), Henrique F. P. VIEIRA (Portugal)


Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,


1 hour 10 mins

A MYSTIQUE OF MAYHEM, WITH HUMOUR

Review by Chris Jannides 30th Mar 2015

The Footnote show this evening, Bbeals takes a thought-provoking path and doesn’t disappoint. The central theme: the Jennifer Beals’ character from the movie Flashdance. The thought-provoking content: well this covers quite a range of things in a dramaturgically disjointed and piece-it-together-yourself fashion.

The work follows two main arcs. The transformation of the cast into multiple Jennifer Beals (Jennies), replete with boofy black curly wigs, white off-the-shoulder knit tops, and black sports bras and underwear. This is the first development, a cloning exercise of 80s star-smitten wannabe lookalikes, and their failings. The second is to create a large scaffold tower on which to suspend a crucified Jenny who laments her situation and chastises the others with the words ‘you guys are shit friends’.

Provocative, abrasive, confessional, self-analytical. You know the kind of contemporary dance show I mean. The big word for this: Deconstruction. Eric Languet’s Bbeals, follows this formula to a T. This is a relatively popular format that our dancers here do very well. There is a lineage of home-grown choreographers well-versed and highly competent in this, I would say, ‘European’ style of performance. Alexa Wilson and Claire O’Neil are two stand-out proponents working in this deliberately anarchic manner, both of whom have made deconstructive work on Footnote in the last few months, featuring disjointed in-your-face mayhem. I feel that we’re all quite well educated in this approach, hence it’s very easy to appreciate.

Yet somehow, knowing that the cutting-edge has been blunted by familiarity, what we seem to get more of in this form of ostensibly risky dance/physical theatre is larger doses of humour, spiced with wit-laden verbosity. Laughter and aggression, they’re both winners when it comes to entertainment and theatrical tension. Generously mixed together, Bbeals gives us a palatable onslaught of no-holds-barred performance, amicably contained, as it is tonight, by the resplendently decorative embrace of our stately, neo-baroque Opera House. Both the venue and the performance stand out for their references to the art practices and star-systems of earlier times. Heaven and Hollywood receive a double homage.

There is much in this show that the audience enjoys immensely. It is clear people want a laugh from the get-go. So these happiness wishes are well catered to. Water splashes on us from some hidden source, titillating us as the house lights dim. Dialogue made up of well-known lines from pop songs receives a joyous response. A cacophony of animal impersonations provokes much merriment. A small female dancer looking helplessly up at the microphone on a stand that is too high for her – more giggles. We all love humour in dance. The audience welcomes the laughs, and laughs as often as it can.

And we also know when not to laugh. The music is mostly the cue for this – delivered by a lean, tightly torsoed musician cum some-time performer in an open red shirt who alternates between keyboard, bass guitar and fellow dancer. Swinging between sensitive pianist and wide-stanced rocker, the musician is adept at dropping the tone and mood sharply and steeply at key points. Also the yelling and abuse spewed by the performers at us and at each other from the stage, often from an ear-splitting microphone, signals our silence, making us attentive and alert to the profundity that is about to be revealed, that we might miss if we are not concentrated enough.

Bbeals, with its fun and semi-structured feeling of improvisation, pulsates under an anarchic blow-torch. Every possible bit of content from the original film has found its way somehow into this performance. Female steelworker with an arc welder, yes (though here we had a grinder for health and safety reasons). Sky-pumping jazz dance steps, yes, plenty of those. Exploited eroticism, naturally. Aspirations to a higher plane of life and dance, the erect symbol of the onstage scaffold is the representative here. Fandom, the spawning of ‘maniacs’, and much else, all have been researched and dissected by Languet’s critical and unflattering ‘blow-torch’, thoroughly and without mercy.

Contemporary dance’s mandate to deliver depth, provocation, challenge and meaning is slotted into very smoothly and deliberately. Irritation and amusement are the primary tools in play. Programme notes attempt to focus our attention on the deeper layers of content in this work, just in case the work doesn’t reveal these for itself. So, for this show, we have statements like: ‘the dancers will question the intimate in order to evoke the universal’. Or: ‘Like the Tower of Babel, the tower being built here is surrounded by strategies, a concentration of humanity, enveloping what is paradoxical…’, and so on. Well, just like the company’s General Manager storming onto the stage in a surprise guest appearance towards the end of the performance to yell at the dancers to get down from the tower, the same sentiment might perhaps be directed at the need choreographers sometimes feel to prop up their work in this pseudo-intellectual way. Surely, I might suggest the work be allowed to do its own propping. Let it sink or swim on the merits of its own capabilities. That’s my humble appeal on this point.

Mention must be made of the ending. The woman next to me starts humming. I am thinking, ‘What the…?’ Then others all around me. Am I missing something? I haven’t read the programme. Is there something I don’t know that the rest of the audience knows? Something about us all singing at this point in the show? Understanding dawns on me when a large group of people who are strategically spread through the auditorium stand up and belt out a religious hymn that emphasises the words ‘Thank you, Lord’. This is an actual choir. Jenny is crucified. The religion of Hollywood is being mocked by a sincere group of local singers. I wonder to myself how much they are aware of the ‘reading’, or are they just happy to sing, irrespective of the context?

The dancers meantime, most of whom are concealed from me by the standing figures of the planted choir, are facing us and twitching, their white tops issuing from their teeth, I think to myself, ‘like vomit’. I question the woman next to me when she sits down. They are the Orpheus Choir. In spite of the beauty, surprise and poignancy of the singing, I curse my memory for having experienced this very same ending recently in Jo Randerson’s White Elephant production. It just goes to show, good ideas are contagious, even when they’re accidental. Divine synchronicity in action.

After the show, I have an interesting conversation with friends. It seems when a performance is full of diverse content built around strategies of disruption and chaos, the best thing to do is to talk to people afterwards. This taps into a delayed reaction effect. By comparison, immediate reactions at the time of viewing haven’t had time to be processed. In the theatre, for instance, a woman sitting close to me remarks, just after we all finish applauding, ‘Oh well, that was contemporary dance. I don’t always get it’. So I am eager to hear what my colleagues make of it. What I notice in our post-show discussion is that there is little mention of content – what the show is about, what it might be trying to communicate. Instead all the observations are about the dancers and how well particular people did certain things. There is no lack of appreciation for the talents, bravery and whatever else is required of the dancers in showcasing their diversity, skill and confidence. This seems to be the first and easiest port of call when trying to prise open work that makes immediate access difficult. There is a hell of a lot to squeeze out of an experience like Bbeals that, at the most, is only seen once. Post-show conversations are a must.

So thank you Eric Languet for your stimulating creativity and for the excellent performers you brought with you. Thank you also to the very fine ensemble that makes up the present Footnote company, you were all given the opportunity to shine as individuals. I am very appreciative of the questions this production has raised in me concerning the artistic complexities and ongoing challenges of contemporary dance as a communicative art form in our community.

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All hail Jenny: Bbeals at the Maidment

Review by Sarah Knox 25th Mar 2015

The Maidment Theatre has a youthful energy on a Tuesday evening as dance students from Unitec and the University of Auckland file into their seats. Footnote has long held its place as a quintessential pathway into dance company employment for emerging practitioners in New Zealand, with their professional development initiatives such as Choreolab and ChoreoCo. These opportunities are clearly building a sense of solidarity and community within the Generation Y cohort. There are whoops of support from the audience to their performing peers, friends, and ex-class mates. Footnote New Zealand Dance proves that success as a dancer in New Zealand is actually possible, and that it might be you performing with Footnote New Zealand Dance in 2016.

Bbeals is the collaborative product of Footnote New Zealand Dance, French born choreographer Eric Languet and his Reunion Island company Danses en L’R. The two companies have integrated well and there is a sense of cohesion within the group.

Jennifer Beals is posed as the dance/life guru; an inspiring force. “I love her. I don’t know her, I mean, I’ve never met her. But I KNOW her”.

The community of “maniacs” who consume the stage are beautiful young things, with all the hair (real and fake) needed to pull off a good Wella shampoo hair flick. And they know it. Thrusting 80’s jazzercise moves are snazzily integrated with contemporary movement pathways, manipulations and fads. It is satisfying to watch the simultaneous control and abandon that is negotiated, especially by performers Emma Dellabarca, Manu Reynaud and Lana Phillips. They have as much ‘fast twitch’ as they have languid suspension. Fanny Skura is a central figure struggling to maintain her fading position as Dance Captain. Henrique Furtado Viera’s consistent aggression flies at everyone in his sight. Alexandra Ford is young and impressionable, and Kosta Bogoievski is slightly confused. All contribute to the wonderful chaos that is Bbeals.

Vignettes of competition, ambition, leadership and followship, the championed or ostracized individual and the complicit group flow past, unfortunately without the same sense of cohesion the performers have. I am forced, through particular phrases of text and scenes we have seen before, to question if I am watching an 80’s commentary on the life of the dancer. Stereotypes are pursued: the subjugated female dancer being stripped (literally), broken, in order to force her to demonstrate her commitment to the art form, whilst male onlookers shiftily avoid responsibility and fail to stand up for what they see – the male ‘artistic director’ (?) who yells and berates the young dancer; a zoo of dancers who promise to improvise perfectly the next time; the hot female dancer/sex on stilettos; the drippy fangirl; the hogger of the limelight; the fading star, the men wearing their undies to show off their abs. Two women perform a sculptural duet. I don’t know what it means but it certainly is intriguing and beautiful.

The live sound design by Yann Costa is clearly an integral part of this performance and his timing of each cue is impeccable. He occasionally wanders into the dancers’ play space, nonchalantly watching, at times erring on the side of downright creepy.

The Footnote and Danses en L’R dancers are generous with their energy and committed in their performance. They are slick, rehearsed and look great in legwarmers. Manu Reynaud gives an epic farewell performance. Over his years with Footnote Manu has grown into a fearless mover with a strong presence, who should be comfortable on any international stage. But for me, Emma Dellabarca is the standout performer of the evening, the underdog of the company, but with an unassuming and mature authenticity in her performance that is satisfying to watch.

Aside from a disjointed choreographic structure, ultimately Bbeal poses poignant questions for me in this time of reimagining within our New Zealand contemporary dance world: What is success? Where is the authenticity in our ‘performance’? Who are we preaching to? To what end are we dancing our guts out? Who will take advantage of us next? Do we really trample each other to get to the top? Where does our faith lie? Who inspires us and why? What does it mean to help each other out to build a structure that will hold us all? How high could we go if there were no creative/health and safety/economic restrictions? What does it mean to stay standing when it all falls down around us?

Bbeals continues: Wednesday 25 March, Maidment, Auckland and Saturday 28 March, Opera House, Wellington. Go see. All hail Jenny.

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Warmth, intimacy and virtuosic versatility

Review by Julia Harvie 20th Mar 2015

Once again Footnote take another brave and bold step with the premiere season of Bbeals by Eric Languet. It is fantastic to see a company in existence now for thirty years still taking risks with their programming. I have been delighted to see the form the company has been taking in recent years with amazing dancers and challenging content.

I am not sure that Christchurch audiences have caught up with the evolution of Footnote as the Theatre Royal was somewhat lacking where numbers were concerned but it was not the regular dance swag either so Footnote have managed to connect with communities beyond the norm which I like.

It was lovely to be in that theatre, engaging with new contemporary dance work. The space reflects the thinking behind the work. A vast, gaping cavern and yet there is a warmth and intimacy achieved. These dichotomies prevail throughout the evening.

Certainly an aspect which aided our sense of intimacy were the selected opportunities for the performers to move amongst us. Often surprising us with their presence in sometimes confronting ways but always with a keen sense of human-ness. We are directly addressed from the offset by Fanny Skura with a diatribe of quotes – a mash-up of sorts with biblical and pop references we were all familiar with. “First when there’s nothing..time after time…losing my religion.” etc. The house lights do not fade down on us until about twenty minutes in and they come up again ten minutes before the end. There is a sense that this work is omnipresent, it is everywhere and we are a part of it. I feel as though I am physically embraced by the performers and the performance. We are held in its arms but needless to say we are also thrown around a bit too!

The current Footnote dancers virtuosic versatility (my desire to use alliteration in this review is hard to deny) is certainly on show this evening. Adept and intricate articulations, an ease with voice and projection and I can’t help but be seduced by their lithe and beautiful bodies. Interestingly, for me, the body beautiful can often be alienating but this evening for some reason, I feel myself seduced.

The collision of Flashdance and The Tower of Babel as texts for this work is an unlikely duet of ideas but it does capture the imagination and the connections are made between the two. Religious fanaticism is timely (as it always has been) and to quote one of the dancers, Emmanuel Reynaud quoting Eric: “Hold your judgement until the end, what can you expect from an aging choreographer in his 50s trying to stay relevant?”. I liked this statement and it rang in my ears for the duration of the work.

Visually the work is relatively chaotic and it is clearly freshly staged. I am intrigued to know how the work will age and develop over time. I hope there are opportunities for the company to continue to push this work, I feel there is more to be discovered. I feel I can see Eric forcing himself to go with the chaos, staying out of his comfort zone and I admire this – in a choreographer in his 50s! It is easy to get reticent and play it safe, Languet nor Footnote look like taking that option any time soon.

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BBeals - Footnote & Danses en l'R 14 March 2015, Regent Theatre - Dunedin

Review by Hahna Briggs 17th Mar 2015

BBeals is Footnote New Zealand Dance’s first national tour in their 30th year anniversary year. Choreographed by Éric Languet, and performed by dancers from Footnote and Languet’s own company danses en l’R. The performance was based around Languet’s ongoing reflection of the ‘individual confronted with the group’. The group in this case was the fan club of actress Jennifer Beals, who proclaimed themselves as ‘Manics’.

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Dynamic, engaging and thought provoking

Review by Georgia Davenport 14th Mar 2015

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the World Premiere of Footnote’s new work Bbeals, in Dunedin. Choreographed by Eric Languet, he has used both Flashdance, the 1983 classic dance film, and Christian religious iconography and ideas, to create the post-dramatic work, named for Jennifer Beal (‘Alex’ in Flashdance’) and the ‘Tower of Babel’.

As an avid Footnote fan, I was excited to see their new work. I must admit, having not seen the entirety of Flashdance, only the iconic ‘Club’ and ‘Audition’ scenes, I was unsure of what to expect on stage. This did not turn out to be a problem at all, as I thoroughly enjoyed what was presented.

As we enter, we are greeted by a largely empty stage, with a DJ turntable downstage left, with a few pieces of scaffolding strewn about the centre and two metal pails downstage, with live, electronic music from the talented Yann Costa. The empty stage leaves potential for anything and everything to happen, and everything and anything does. From one moment to the next, you don’t know what is going to happen, how the dancers are going to move, where they will go or how events will unfold.

Bbeals blurs the lines of choreographed and improvised movement, with smatterings of original Flashdance choreography, references and iconography sprinkled throughout, creating a unique, fresh and approachable piece of dance theatre. Comprised of moving duets, engaging solos and a healthy amount of comedy (something you do not see enough of in dance), with no definitive narrative, the dancers draw you in with their captivating personalities and the way they move about the space, interacting with one another and the objects around them, as well as constantly breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing and engaging with the audience (I was lucky enough to have Henrique Furtado Vieira dance right next to me).

Playing with the idea of the super-fan, both in celebrity culture and also in the highly devoted religious sense, Eric Languet and the dancers explore the emotions, sense of belonging and blind devotion that these particular forms of worship entail. These dancers adoringly worship Jennifer Beals, like one might worship a deity, as we find out through use of dance, monologue and song, Self dubbed ‘Manics’ attempt to become her and her character ‘Alex’ from Flashdance, dressing like her, mimicking her dance style from the film, making the audience and each other very aware of how different aspects of their lives mirror her own, whether it be their appearance, names or the circumstances they were born into.

While each has their own individual time to shine, the crowning point of the piece comes with the building of a metal tower out of scaffolding, representing the Tower of Babel, and also the dancers love of ‘Jenny’. It is a shrine to her, and they devote much time, effort and love to this towering structure, just as the Babylonians did to theirs. It is a true group effort, with the cry of “guys?!” being called repeatedly throughout the building process, calling all onstage to participate in the building. Because of this, when the performance is interrupted by a crew member, demanding that they take down their structure, as “it is getting out of hand” and “we have a thing called ‘Health and Safety’ in this country,” you feel the pain of the dancers and DJ, as they mourn what they have built, a symbol of their love, being taken from them.

Over all, ‘Bbeals’ is a beautifully choreographed piece, well worth attending. It is dynamic, engaging, thought-provoking, and as my companion with whom I attended says, “the best train-wreck of ideas and concepts, all thrown onto one stage that I have seen in a long time.”

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