Friday, October 6, 2017

What's Next? A solo for the great Germaine Acogny

Germaine Acogny is performing the New York premiere
of a work by Olivier Dubois of Ballet du Nord
at BAM Next Wave.

Sounds of a bassoon undulate like incense in the absolute dark of BAM Fisher's space. We're taking first, tentative steps into the mystery of Le Sacré du Printemps with choreographer Olivier Dubois of Ballet du Nord.

In this imagining of Stravinsky's rite, Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2, a 2014 solo for septuagenarian Germaine Acogny, Dubois first makes the audience wait in darkness through long stretches of music. We wait in the cloying aroma of tobacco from, as we later learn, a pipe gripped in the dancer's teeth. Intermittent flashes of light--a thin line vertical line--tease us. The music dials up uncertainty, tension, apprehension.

It's a while before we get a stable-enough look at Acogny and her setting--a platform in a black box that, over the course of the nearly 40-minute dance, confines her, sometimes elevating or partially obscuring her. She wears a black bra and slacks. One's immediate, disturbing thought: Dubois has turned her into a specimen for display.

Her close-shaved head emphasizes formidable features. She stomps the floor like a bull ready for battle. We continue to be stymied and tantalized by fugitive light and the afterimage that it leaves.

Talking to herself, laughing to herself, wrapping her head in black cloth and dragging it off, Acogny is a woman on the verge...of something. A woman to be admired at one moment and feared the next. One passage though, where she mimics the blare and clash of the music in voice and harsh movement, seems a weak offering, merely ordinary after the audacity of the work's initial staging. The regal and storied dancer looks merely petulant.

Were it not for the program's hair-raising quotes from writings by Aimé Césaire--one on the ravages of colonization, the other excoriating anyone who would stand apart, as a spectator, while the world burns--it might be tricky to figure out who Acogny might be, as dreamed up by Dubois, or read her actions said to be "drawn from the depths of her African soul."

In any event, any chance to see the influential Acogny perform here is a worthy occasion. Final performances are tonight and tomorrow, Saturday, at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

For more information on the 2017 BAM Next Wave festival, click here.

BAM Fisher
321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn

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