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    2017-2018 reviews:


    Maguy Marin

    Eat this dance?

    I can't eat the dance. The people of Latin America can't eat the applause. Everybody's hungry.


    What can political dance do? Writing about Maguy Marin's "Les Applaudissements ne se mangent pas" ("One Can't Eat Applause") is a strange task. It asks to be seen as a political piece. Despite its impeccable construction, it is uninviting. It pushes the audience back through the monotony of a simple model of power games, but asks the audience to relate the stage model to an idea about (1) Latin American dictatorships and (2) power in general. It is without the humor and tenderness that characterizes Marin's work. It is without the perversion and violence of its subject. A program note that makes the meaning transparent prefaces it. I found it without affective consequence.

    Choreography by: Maguy Marin.
    Dancers: Ulises Alvarez, Manual Chabanis, Teresa Cunha, Isaias Jauregui, Sylvie Pabiot, Thierry Partaud, Cathy Polo, Dominique Uber, Brigitte Valverde.
    Music by: Denis Mariotte.
    Lighting design by: Francois Renard.

    Related links: Official site
    The Joyce
    175 Eighth Avenue
    April 6-11, 2004

    What is this piece? What are its materials? I felt very clearly that the work had a cause, that it asked to be read in terms of its cause and so was activist at least from the standpoint of intentions. The exploration of power didn't yield a piece of theater per se, and although I could analyze it in terms of theater, and report on it in terms of theater, that seems to miss the point. But I was left wondering if a dance could instruct without appeal to a visceral empathy, if it could do philosophical work. And if the philosophical work was abstract to the point of avoiding all sensation, could that work ever translate into an ethical call to action?

    I would be reluctant to rule anything out, although "Applaudissements" doesn't translate into an ethical call itself. Stripped bare of everything but a few elements, the piece was an ongoing event in which the nine dancers, never all on stage at once, through a vocabulary mostly of walking and running plus a little bit of simple dance phrasework, came into alliances, ended up either standing or on the floor, isolated or not. Frequently people on the floor were carried off. There was power, alliance, and disappearance. Alliances were never promises and the outcome of the power games, instead of owing to initiative on the part of those remaining standing, was generally random. To an uncomfortable sound score, surrounded by a 3-sided box of colored vinyl strips, hanging festively (but also reminiscent of the plastic doors that lead to the part of the grocery store you can't go into, if you can recall life before bodegas), this pattern of alliance, falling and disappearance repeated itself until the end of the piece 70 minutes after it began.

    What is this piece? What are its materials?  

    Stripped bare of strangeness, stripped almost of even being a different language, the thing struck me as a model more than a metaphor. It was direct. For me, too direct. I know that it's futile to theorize art- even more, it's meaningless because it's limited, and limitations are temporary parameters and agreements about looking at best. But the thing I respond to most about dance — about dance as it suggests the world and things in the world — is its slipperiness, the momentary points where the one world touches the other. It is inexact, because it is a different language than the one (this one) that we use to describe the world and our thoughts. It is a translation, so it has a point of connection in logical space that we instantly "make sense" of, and yet it's always bigger than a point or even a plane. Because it is inexact, it can also suggest volumes, and I love these fragile connections, and I love how and when dance means this way. So when the connection is forged and clear, when it makes obvious its direct correlate, the excitement and the pure humming suggestion of it is gone for me. Doesn't dance need its opacity?

    MAY 3, 2004

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