Giannandrea Poesio

Loss of sensation

France has long been the cradle of ground-breaking new dance, thanks to a score of provocative performance-makers. It was about time, therefore, that an internationally renowned festival such as Dance Umbrella paid tribute to a country which has produced radical and revitalising choreography over the past three decades.

Former enfant terrible of what has been appropriately referred to as the ‘French choreographic avant-garde’, Angelin Preljocaj is one of the leading figures of post-modern choreography. Creations such as Liqueurs de Chair (1988), which explored rather explicitly dark eroticism and sexual perversions, Noces (1989), a vibrant and somewhat violent sexist reading of the 1923 Stravinsky ballet Les Noces, and a fairly controversial version of Romeo and Juliet (1990) have had a tremendous, though not shocking impact on the notion of dance-making, thus giving him international repute.

Created for Paris Opera Ballet in 1994 — at a time when crossing boundaries between classical dance and post-modern choreography still caused a sensation — Le Parc draws upon Preljocaj’s exploration of love and seduction in 17th- and 18th-century literary works. Through a highly individual interpretation, Preljocaj mourns the state of love in contemporary society, asking, ‘Where are the golden moments’ —and the reference to the Countess’s aria in Le Nozze di Figaro is intentional, for Mozart’s music underscores almost the entire action.

Visually, Le Parc is a triumph of refined movements, luscious costumes and intriguing sets. The action develops through a series of closed dance numbers inspired by different situations and similar to the chapters of a manual for the perfect lover/seducer. Yet no great knowledge of works such as La Princesse de Clèves, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Carte du Tendre is needed to appreciate what is going on. The lovers’ skirmishes, the seductive manoeuvres and the now tense, now comic interplay between the interpreters provide plenty to enjoy.

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