Sometimes a performance has an intelligent concept, talented performers and a beautiful choreography, but the piece does not become an ensemble. As such I would describe Kitsou Dubois and Fantazio’s “L’Été en Apesanteur” currently showing at the Théâtre de la Cité on the Cité Universitaire campus in Paris’ 14th arrondissement.
Contemporary dance is a vague label. In this performance, the ‘contemporary’ is Dubois’ circus-styled choreography, involving acrobats and a diabolo performer (not, apparently, called a diabolist). Dubois, interested with the human body’s relationship with its physicality and its escape therefrom, invites us into her concept of feeling and flight in her space of anti-gravity, hence the “apésanteur” (weightlessness).
Using music and short film projections to provide dimensionality to the performance, “L’Été en Apesanteur” showcases four incredibly talented acrobats, three of which are aerialists and the fourth a toss-juggler, performing against a variety of sounds and images as well as Fantazio, musician and actor.
The music is, for the most part, minimalist, produced live onstage by DJ Shalom. Projections of anti-gravitational scenes and concrete towers crashing to earth (for example) complement the onstage performances, creating an ephemeral, metaphysical exploration of the body. The end product is one of analogy and technology.
But it’s not all abstract. Fantazio, a true character, is there to break the conceptual and the third-wall in one fell swoop. Introducing and closing the performance as well as abruptly interrupting each acrobatic routine, he gives the audience humour in a shedload. Ad-lib or impeccably performed, we the audience had no idea and didn’t care either. With stumbling, off-piste anecdotes, a wonderful way with loquacious analogies, he breaks the often overly-esoteric moment, crashing the scene and waving his double bass around (yes, heavy you’d imagine) or shouting outbursts in Italian. He brings a refreshing solidity to the stage, and a lot of laughs. He’s also a brilliantly talented musician, a sort of mad wandering minstrel.
The standout piece for me was the final aerialist. Dressed entirely in white and lit against an ever-changing projection, her silhouette was stunning against a skyline which became a mass of waves, a scene of tumbling towers before finally contouring her body in a white uterus of light.
(from one of her previous pieces – Autres pistes)
But despite the intelligence, talent and subtlety of the piece, something doesn’t work. The fact that Fantazio’s interruptions were a welcome relief is a sign that not all is right with “L’Été en Apesanteur”. Acrobatic scenes are overly-long, the music sometimes uncomfortable and, when we are enjoying a scene (that of the diabolo for example) it is interrupted before we feel that we’ve fully enjoyed the moment. And it didn’t leave me wanting more. Overall, I felt that the concept spoilt the pleasure. That’s not to say that the idea was not one worth exploring. I enjoyed the philosophy behind the visual. Perhaps it is because the medium is one too-easily associated with the circus that I, and other members of the audience, left with the impression that we had truly experienced something, but not necessarily enjoyed it.