As promised, here’s a review specific to Compagnie 7273 and their performance of Romance-s. The dance is described as a love story between the two choreographer/performers, Laurence Yadi and Nicolas Cantillon. It is an illustration of their love for each other and their love of dance. In truth, it accomplishes this and so much more, as it reaches beyond the two creator-performers and illuminates the tragedy and beauty of love on a universal scale.
The dance opens on Yadi and Cantillon standing face-to-face, or rather face-to-chest, as the former is about a foot shorter than the latter. They stand in silence, dressed in simple black, his hair splayed out in a giant, curly afro that enhances his height. Suddenly he pliés until his face is even with hers, and they are both screaming with no sound, mouths open and eyes squished shut, bodies shaking. They hold this for what seems an eternity, then gradually release back to neutral. He sinks to her feet, head bowed as if in apology. He flows to the floor, leg extended as the first of many invitations and she follows, linking her limbs with his, and they roll as one body. He extracts himself and moves stage left, ending on one knee, arms extended to the floor. She slowly moves to sit on his raised knee, barely taller on her feet than he is kneeling.
Themes and habits emerge as the piece progresses. There are rebellions and emotional games: he knocks her to the floor, runs away, she follows him, he carries her back, and repeats the process exactly. She faces him and distorts her face in the silent scream, back arched forward, stalking him down again and again. They lock arms and fight, wrestling each other to the ground. But what emerges from underneath the everyday arguing is a deep and abiding love between two interconnected beings. In one of my favorite moments, Cantillon breaks away from Yadi and forcefully dances a solo of rhythmic footwork and sharp arms. He is obviously telling her something important, and she listens, assuming his ending position. He gently flows back to her and they begin the first true unison of the dance (of which there are only four). It is an extremely powerful sequence. It shows they are two very different people who live and love as themselves, and yet who can connect completely to each other when necessary.
Energetically, the dance has a pleasing arc. It reaches a zenith in the last third as the dancers tumble together through space and time. Their bodies are perfectly suited to each other, both long and lithe, hers a smaller version of his. Her lightness allows him to gently lift and spin her, sometimes as classically as a ballerina and sometimes as modern as a contact improvisation dancer. When he lifts her, it is breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking. His touch is always full of care, making sure she is safe. He does so not because she can’t take care of herself – she is a strong, feisty, and powerful figure in this dance – but because he loves her so very much. Likewise, there are moments when she slips underneath him to provide support, functioning as his bolster when he needs it the most. They also play with disappointments: at one point she hangs on desperately as he pulls away and eventually leaves. She stands, desolate, in the emptiness. When he returns, he bounces onstage like a ballet prince, at attention in sus-sous, arm extended to the sky. He quickly deflates when he realizes this isn’t what she needed (perhaps he shouldn’t have left in the first place). It’s both lovely and tragic as he tries to make amends.
The piece finishes with her leaping into his arms just before a blackout, followed immediately by a flamenco song blasting from the speakers. This is the only music that accompanies the dance; up to this point they have been the only sound in the space. Dancing in silence is surely the only choice they had, because their bodies together are so perfectly balanced and melded that meaning just oozes from their dancing. Any music would have proved a distraction. The music as a short afterword is intriguing, as the particular choice of song was incredibly passionate. The first time I watched the piece I hated the music and would have preferred the piece to stand alone. The second time I didn’t mind it so much and found it a musical summary of the dance. I’m sure it’s because I knew it was coming, so I wasn’t so shocked and could find meaning in it. I definitely don’t find the music necessary, but it is an interesting choice and does add something to
the dance; whether the dance needed it is unclear.
This was my favorite piece of the weekend. I wasn’t expecting that, because the previous solos the two danced I found visually interesting and complex but devoid of any meaning. I admired the fluid technique they are both adept at, and I was awed by the fact that their fast-paced, never-stopping solos were choreographed and not improvised. But as I watched them, stuck in one space and never changing, never developing, I found myself checking in and out. The dancers were stuck in their own movement world, their own tiny experiences, and I was the last thing on their mind as an audience member. I had no place in the dance and as such it was interesting but didn’t hold my attention nor warrant much thought. By complete contrast, Romance-s displayed a world that everyone can connect to and a diverse movement vocabulary that had a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It proved Yadi and Cantillon are so much more than what meets the eye.