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Beyond Words

Ballet de Lorraine Third Program: Ayelen Parolin’s "Malón" and Maud Le Pladec’s "Static Shot" in perspective [By Tracy Danison]

Malon-2-CCN-BL“Malón”, dance performance by Ayelen Parolin. Photo © Ballet de Lorraine

As part of the Ballet de Lorraine’s third program for the 2023-24 season, I’ll be seeing Ayelen Parolin’s newly-created Malón (“Chaos Agents”) in premiere and Maud Le Pladec’s Static Shot for the second time at the Opéra national de Lorraine, place Stanislas, Nancy.

Natural turnover and state policy, and also the quantum wash that is making us a new culture era, as everywhere else, are welling up inside and outside the Ballet de Lorraine, so it’s a good idea to try to grind up some socio-esthetic lenses before I sit down to watch.

Parolin, who came to Belgium from Argentina in 2000, has been very creative, in view and quite successful in France these past couple years. The last Parolin dance performance I reviewed – but not the only one I’ve had the pleasure to experience – was WEG, in September 2021, at Atelier de Paris, when things were opening up again from the pandemic.

“WEG”, I wrote then, “Choreographs observation, imitation, vibration, variation and novelty, letting onlookers revel in the complex subjectivity of human relationships”.

Apparently, at some point in her life, Parolin took on “she” after having previously been identified or identifying as “he”. According to my friend, Wang, who nearly had a crise de nerfs when I told him I hadn’t realized any of this or its possible implications, says that the switch plays a role in how her work is conceived and perceived and how she is received. So, I’ll be going into Malón with the choreography of  identity and the complex subjectivity of human behavior as my lenses.

I’ll also be seeing Maud Le Pladec’s Static Shot through two lenses. My first focuses on the social-organizational implications of Le Pladec’s appointment and her role as a state culture actor. She is currently director of Centre Chorégraphique National (CCN) - Orléans, but will become director of the CCN - Ballet de Lorraine, starting January 2025. Who succeeds her in her old post and the direction she sets in her new one will send signals, make waves. She’ll be, at least for a while, not just one of the three women running one of the 19 CCNs, she’ll be the only woman running one of the five big regional dance companies, which include Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin, Ballet de Marseille, Ballet Preljocaj and Malandain Ballet Biarritz, two of which bear the name of their founders and current directors.

STATIC-SHOT (c) LaurentPhilippe-8“Static Shot”, dance performance by Maud Le Pladec. Photo © Laurent Philippe

The centrally-funded but locally operated CCN are part of the Mitterand-era effort to institutionalize nouvelle danse française initiatives such as Ballet-Théâtre Contemporain (BTC), founded by Françoise Ardet, Philppe Thiry and Jean-Albert Cartier post-1968. Grossly drawn, each CCN today represents a mix of a more or less strong choreographic personality through its director (see above) and more or less local or regional culture- artistic action by its location-and dance culture tradition.

Along with a particular attachment to music, Maud Le Pladec claims BTC heritage, which promulgates a dance practice that not only eschews classic ballet but also ballets russes avant-garde style stuff. In addition to the clearly contemporary Static Shot, one of Le Pladec’s recent, and quite successful, productions, for instance, is Silent Legacy,  built out of Krump-style break dance featuring, besides a man and woman cross-genre performers, a 10- or 11-year-old Québec girl who can stomp and emote with the best in Compton. Le Pladec’s note says that the performance is a meld of break and contemporary dance and part of her ongoing investigation of dance genre and heritage. So, if at least some of Ayelen Parolin’s artistic identity may be said to turn on gender, going forward, at least some of Le Pladec’s innovation may turn on issues of genre J.

The most important lens for appreciating dance performance is spectator experience – truth is beauty, beauty, truth, 1066 and all that – does the technique, flow and sensibility bring the spectator beyond words, toward Imagination?

Largely, Le Pladec’s work does for me, as Static Shot did the first time. I noted that “Le Pladec seems to use music as the captain of one of those treasure-hunt ships uses a deck hose to wash the mud and barnacles off a long-hidden treasure, dazzling while incentivizing the crew. Instead of gold and jewels, she focuses the senses on the fantastic movement of these Ballet de Lorraine bodies” … Her approach, I thought then, goes to the shape and form of her consciousness, dovetailing neatly in this with Loïc Touzé’s quite choreographically different No Oco, with which Static Shot shared the bill.

Later on, after the show, I felt confirmed in the conviction that her piece had let spectatators stand for a moment on the balcony of her consciousness, run a finger along the woodwork, when I read this unexpected (prose) poem in her dance note:

Enfant, je danse sur les musiques pop de la disco-mobile de mon père, je suis peinte en tutu rose sur la portière de sa camionnette, je cours de galas en compétitions de moto-cross. Mon père aime la danseuse qu’il a fait peindre sur sa camionnette et j’aime que mon père l’aime. Je ne deviendrai jamais la danseuse en tutu rose peinte sur le C35 et pourtant, c’est bien grâce à elle que je danse tel que je danse aujourd’hui. 

(“As a girl I danced to the pop music playing from my Dad’s Citroën 35 van. I was the dancer in the pink tutu he had painted on the disco-van door and was dancing with him as he went from moto-cross race to moto-cross gala. Dad loved the dancer on the door and I love that Dad loved her. I have not become that dancer. But I owe it to her that I dance as I dance today”.)

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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