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Paul Ben-Itzak
Dance and Technology
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
Centre National de la Danse
Pantin, OT (France)

Dominique Boivin: Impossible Dreamer - A choreographic Don Q tosses spears at lights and shadow

by Paul Ben-Itzak
May 26, 2009
Centre National de la Danse
1, rue Victor Hugo
Pantin, OT (France) 93507
01 41 83 98 98
PANTIN (Seine-Sainte-Denis), France — On a visceral level, I can't say I didn't find all the shadow and video-play in Dominique Boivin's new "Don Quichotte!: solo provisoire," created for his Compagnie Beau Geste, thrilling. Unveiled in the intimate Grand Studio at the Center National de la Danse May 26 and running just under an hour, the work benefited equally from the irresistable charm of the choreographer-performer, a veteran of the French scene, and special effects that charmed. I'm not sure, though, if all the dazzling light-play didn't dwarf the live performer. Although as I write that, it occurs to me that maybe this was Boivin's intention, to posit himself as an old-school dance-maker tilting at the techno-windmills that have invaded his art and thus imperiled its purity over the last decade.

Like Cervantes's hero, in his world Dominique Boivin is a kind of throwback, an old-fashioned, old school, almost middle-aged (or as the French say, 'between two ages') movement-driven choreographer still using the body as the point of reference in a sea of younger choreographers who often seem more interested in text and video than their own metier. When the youngsters do it, it's almost lazy, reflecting a reluctance to work with their own basic (physical) matter, a succumbing to the electronic candy of their generation. I may be in the minority in this wishful interpretation of the dazzling one-man spectacle that is Boivin's Don Q, but perhaps his intention here is not to regal us with Christoph Guillermet and Eric Lamy's respective video and lighting tricks, but, in presenting his own lonely, relentless, Sisyphusian one-man dance in the milieu of all this dazzle, to portray the lonely battle of an aging but still vital choreographer who continues to dream in dance terms, conducting a lonely battle to preserve its purity.

Indeed, Boivin's footwear for most of the show would seem to confirm this: He stomps about in a pair of large red and black cowboy boots, which have the effect of making his back slump. (His clothing, also suggesting he's here to work, is a dark green jumpsuit.) He's often carrying a large metal lance-like shaft, which he regularly randomly drops on the stage, creating a resonating, echoing thud; it must be miked. He also experiments with pounding his own mike against his chest, a clamorous gesture which could be a comment on the over-use of this particular device — body-miking — by choreographers over the last decade. His intricate handwork is often incredible, offering a sort of micro-ballet in the midst of all this scenic grandeur, as is the dedication of his marching, as if he's being maintained on a line (and indeed, the marching is usually linear), marionette-like.

Even one of the recurrent images projected on the upstage screen would seem to confirm this theme: Dozens of little black, bird-like spots which expand to reveal themselves as mini-Boivins. The shadows which often tower over him also suggest the dwarfing of the real body and its solid substance by electronic ephemera. (His attempt to compete with the razzle-dazzle by donning a glittery gold aluminum cape is ultimately futile.) As does the final image, when Boivin, his back to the audience, those magic hands impotently deflated at his side, regards his own empty shadow projected on the screen.

(Author's note: For more on Dominique Boivin, see my Dance Insider Review of an earlier performance here.)
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