A bare chested male dancer walks out onto the black stage and firmly plants himself into a perfect fifth position, he is ready. The audience hasn’t quite realised that the performance has begun as the lights are only just starting to dim and the sounds of – I think – a horse eating an apple? fills the theatre as the dancer commences ballet class like exercises centre stage.
It’s clear from the beginning that this will be something a little different. Ballet National de Marseille’s Body. Dance. Nation. City. reminds me of a ballet dancer’s surreal dream that starts out with a corps du ballet moving in unison with heart-felt slow sweeping movements and then breaks into a dance-off with individual performances through different dance genres against a backdrop of clashing classical, drum n bass, electric and opera.
A ballet of two halves put the dancers individuality at the heart of the piece. The company is made up of really interesting individuals who create an intriguing canvass of dancers. They’re tall, short, soft, angular, a long haired man, gorgeous afro hair divine ballet dancer, a bearded dancer – I loved that the dancers’ personalities were freed, released and celebrated.
Where the first half was intense, with the dancers in skin coloured costumes and surgical masks covering their faces turning into mummy-like figures, the second half sees the dancers performing classical solos to an ever changing musical backdrop.
Dancers donned pointe shoes (including 1 male dancer in pointes) the music boomed switching between classical accompanied by swan lake steps to drum n bass, electric, opera music with the contemporary dancers showing off their classical prowess.
Throughout the piece is a swan lake-esque reference both in steps and music, which is an interesting contrast to the almost nude-looking contemporary dancers who perform snippets of swan lake a random times. It has a curious effect, but one the audience loves.
The17 dancers are well trained, athletic as well as graceful easily able to move between high energy contemporary movements right through to classical ballet and back.
Body. Dance. Nation. City. is a curious and entertaining piece that showcases the wonderfully expressive dancers and explores the relationship between the individual body and wider society.
Body. Dance. Nation. City. – Concept and Choreography – Emio Greco, Pieter C. Scholten
Body. Dance. Nation. City. is part of Southbank’s Festival of Love.