In Tragédie, French choreographer Olivier Dubois sets out to explore the human condition. It turns out to be very long, very loud and very naked.
Dubois, the newly-appointed director of Ballet du Nord, uses nudity as a philosophical point. Eighteen dancers – nine men, nine women – emerge from darkness at the back of the stage and pace up and down to a thumping beat.
On stage, nakedness tends to be vulnerable rather than sexy. Where film can offer controlled angles and flattering lighting, the stage is a big, exposed, chilly space. Unglamorously stripped, Dubois’ dancers are also blank-faced, lacking individuality.
Tragédie deliberately follows classical models. It aims for catharsis by building from ordered pacing to wild flailing. The dancers walk for perhaps half an hour before allowing variation to creep in – a quirked elbow, a faster turn. They step into anguished poses, as if modelling for a bad painting.
Lasting an endless 90 minutes, Dubois’ picture of alienated humanity is a labour to watch. Towards the end, dancers writhe around, humping the air – but each person is separate, not touching anyone else. Even during sex, we are alone. It’s a lot of effort for a trite point.
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