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Joanna G. Harris
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Trajal Harrell's The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai Pretentious Falderal

by Joanna G. Harris
March 19, 2016
Zellerbach Playhouse
101 Zellerbach Hall #4800
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 642-9988
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
The tradition of the Judson Church and its experimental dance/theater is, believe it or not, well known, even to members of the Berkeley audience. Experiments in “avant-garde” theater and dance have appeared in the Bay Area since (and before) most New York so-called inventions. Trajal Harrell and his company in The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai March 18-19, 2016 at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Playhouse, however well intended, presented no surprises, no innovation and, for many in the house, continual boredom and offence. If this is radical let us withdraw to what pleases.

A program that uses the French language as if it is a cultural given may be charming, but it excludes the audience. Onstage interviews, as on bad TV shows, are neither interesting nor provocative. Onstage raffles are for movie houses. “Voguing” and/or drag queen fashion shows are better done in nightclubs. Blasting sound tracks are irritating as is phony crooning. The fiction generated in the title of this show evokes no real response since it is an excuse for an endless costume parade and the display of props. Yes, Trajal’s dancers can move, but where is the choreography? It consisted of endless repetitive foot pounding, except for the imitative “Isadora” trio, which finally faded away.

If this is to be contemporary research in "new" dance, let us reawaken the old. There are many lively companies in San Francisco who are more innovative in their use of drama, technology and choreography. They should be allowed the privilege of the Zellerbach Playhouse stage instead of this expensive (and pretentious) import.

Choreography Trajal Harrell

Dancers: Trajal Harrell, Thibault Lac, Wei Ming Pak, Perle Palombe, Stephen Thompson, Christina Vassiliou, Ondr ?ej Vidlár ?

Voiceover Rob Fordeyn
Lighting Design Stéfane Perraud
Set Design Erik Flatmo and Trajal Harrell
Soundtrack Trajal Harrell
Costumes Trajal Harrell and the performers
Dramaturgy Gérard Mayen
Trajal Harrell's 'The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai'

Trajal Harrell's "The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai"

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu

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