08/11/2008 - 08/11/2008
Democracy by Television
Review by Shennifer Jennan 12th Nov 2008
I watched a televised dance performance on Saturday evening, 8 November, fairly late on Channel One. The work was offered without a title but I think of it as a danse macabre. It made a powerful impression, although the choreographer was also unidentified. A huge budget had clearly gone in to the production.
A ring of six very strong, thickset males, each of them with little in the way of what you’d call a neck, were roped together into a widdershins ( outwardly facing) circle, with strong linked-akimbo arm positions. Their port-de-bras cadenced in impressively expressive tight-clenched fists, surreal shades of the familiar quartet of cygnets in other ballets we have known.
Their torsos remained staunchly vertical while the step pattern adroitly moved their circular formation cautiously en avant. The focussed performers conveyed a realistic pugnacity, and one can only wonder how many hours of studio training were required to achieve this co-ordination and concentration. Their powerful imaginations were clearly at work, as they continually conveyed the expectation of an attack at any moment – from the foreground, the sides or the rear – even though there was no evidence of any hovering corps de ballet actually likely to launch such an attack. Shades of other ballets we have known – der Groene Tisch, by Kurt Jooss, for example.
Furthermore, the performers were able to convey the impression that they were completely unaware of the camera’s presence, a hallmark of the challenging school of theatrical neo-realism. This impression was the more tellingly conveyed as the male lead performer, centred within their circle, was effectively ushered past these imagined potential dangers as he made his way down through the midst of a very long corridor of spectators.
In striking contrast to the group’s von Rothbart-like demeanours, the soloist appeared to be in jubilant mood – and had a female and two juvenile cast members, dressed in blue, closely accompanying him. They all managed to sustain this sequence for an extended period of time but they may have been helped in this by some music (I just can’t remember the tune). The wider stage set was generously filled with blue balloons and the convincing crowd of spectators applauded with an energy that did not seem at all forced. Shades of the celebrated ballets of Trudi Schoop, for example.
This is apparently the first act of a full-length work, even a series. We might hope that the camera crew for future episodes could be trained to present a more sympathetic, flattering and less threatening view of the circle dance, since it is likely to recur as a motif. Shades of Jerome Robbins’ The Cage, for example. It is of course possible that the director’s choice to edit the production’s camera focus in this way was a deliberate, though subtle, communication that might yet earn a nomination in the triennial Democracy by Television awards.
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