“Do I see what I hear? Do I hear what I see?” Those are the questions that provoke young and promising French choreographer Maud Le Pladec in her performance “Professor”. In this one-hour work, combining electronic music and sounds, movements, elements of theatre, live music performance and light, she investigates into the relationship between the music and the movement on stage. A large black curtain set parallel to the audience divides the stage in two parts – front and back – creating a situation of anxiety and expectation: what will come out from the other side? Extremely dimmed light brings the mood of “film-noir”. The presence of the three performers who are dressed in (almost) identical costumes, looking like one multiplied person, complete the picture, filling it with suspense and mystery. This visual ambient is dominated by the music structured as a collage of sounds and noises – a composition for electronic ensemble named “Professor Bad Trip” by Fausto Romitelli, which is the original inspiration for this performance. The movements and actions of the performers on stage are in direct relationship to the music. They are the embodiment of what the audience hears. The movements vary from hand gestures, through choreography of the whole body to facial expressions and “narrative” movements. Le Pladec very clearly and categorically announces her intention to “dance the music” from the first solo in the performance and remains consistent until the end. It is a pleasure (for a change) to watch dancers dance to music at least till the end of the third solo. From that moment on the music/movement module just repeats itself with variations. That is the moment when you start to ask youself – what is this performance really about?
Posts tagged ‘Professor’
If the filmmaker David Lynch were ever to make a contemporary dance piece for three Gallic performers, it would probably look and sound something like Maud Le Pladec’s Professor. Looming shadows, dancers disappearing through the curtains, slow-motion visual effects and an aurally uncomfortable soundtrack – all it needs is a dancing dwarf, and the Lynchian setting would be complete.
Nóra Bükki Gálla
Generations of choreographers thought music was a painful limitation to their work, so they escaped it. How? Well, they invented many clever ways. Using experimental works were one good option, sound recordings hardly recognizable as music – and of course there is the absolutely honest and inscrutable solution of not using music at all (variations include spoken texts, breathing and other noises the performers make). If none of those things seem possible, you still have the option of simply ignoring the piece of music that is played during the performance. And that’s it – one thing nobody does today is dancing to music. Making a dance piece with the particular aim of illustrating music is so very unthinkable…
…that actually it’s worth a try.
That is what French choreographer Maud Le Pladec must have considered when she decided to do a piece for the eerie and unsettling sound-mix of Fausto Romitelli, Professor Bad Trip. The composition is based on violin and electric guitar tunes, manipulated and amplified to the point of becoming a chaotic rumbling. The soundtrack itself consists of three parts; this structure is reflected in the choreography, offering multiple layers of meaning. We keep bumping into the iconic number three: there are three lectures of the’ Professor’, each lecture being announced by a narrator’s voice; there are three black-clad figures, very similar as the music suggests, still not identical. We also have three types of activity that these figures are engaged in: dance, mime-like everyday gestures and the actual making of live music (one of them is playing an electric guitar backstage, producing soundwaves instead of tunes). The stage is divided into two by an important third element: a black curtain revealing and hiding the dancers as their movement is conducted by the absolute dominance of music.
The first lecture is about pure dance: a solitary figure acts out the sounds and notes of music. Movements are modulated and tuned in a way to not only reflect on, but actually and in a very literal way perform music, spell it out with motions that are connected to everyday gestures, but still are made abstract in order to match the music’s ambiguous quality. Movements are clever and articulated, even ironic and inventive in the sense the music is. Le Pladec does not aim to exceed the limits set by the soundtrack but manages to cover this specific audiovisual terrain with a playfulness of movement that enriches the piece.
The second lecture leads us toward a more theater-like experience: the curtain at the back of the stage opens up to reveal a second figure playing a guitar. A strange hide and seek scene enfolds in which all three dancers make their appearance – in their similarity they look like they are actually one person in three different bodies, making the game puzzling and entertaining at the same time. The third lecture is on acting: the three figures are engaged in different poses, using excessive gestures and facial expressions; they face the audience and play ping-pong with the sounds of the music or move the other one like he was a life-size puppet.
The scenes seem to lead to nowhere in particular but then the music does the same: it arches from quietly weird to disturbingly abstract without offering an easy reading. Professor is a strictly formalist piece leading in a witty line from dance to theatre, from the graspable to the abstract and from the two dimensions of music and dance to a third of multiple interpretations, still with the clear intention of being no more than what it is: an embodiment of the music that inspired it in the first place.
The dance has a distinct moving quality focused on the hands and arms; the movement of the body mimics the movement of music in an unconventional and dedicated way. After a while, we really begin to feel the flyer’s promise: watching the music in its intricacy and hearing the sound of this dynamic dance.
The first dancer is swallowed by the back curtain, and a second later we see him with an electric guitar under a single spotlight, contributing live to the recorded music. The second part starts with another dancer’s jump from the rear side; we see a chase, a run, with dancers’ shadows echoing, behind and infront of the curtain.
The three male dancers show slow motion mimics and gestures, with changing emotions, as if performing a real “bad trip” as three alter-egos of the same person. At this point, the performance acts in parallel with the music’s narrative suggestions. This second part functions as a comic relief for an otherwise quite dark and uncanny performance.The final part ends with the convergence of the three, looking to each other as if falling from the ecstatic experience. They stand still, the music dies away and the synesthesia stops.
Romitelli’s score and instrumentalization is so impressive that the choreography might have vanished in it, become unnoticeable, or been praised only for the sake of musicality. Yet Le Pladec’s work does more than feeding on the power of the music. It enhances it, translates it, and fills every corner of its aural space. Thus Maud Le Pladec successfully challenges and matches the intense and sophisticated composition of Romitelli, taking us to a cogent ‘bad trip’ and back.