Home by Jeff Slayton Compagnie Par Terre performs at Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz

Compagnie Par Terre performs at Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz

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Compagnie Par Terre in AUTARCIE (...) - Photo by Patrick Berger

Two companies, one from Los Angeles and one from Paris, performed in the Dance or Danse? series at the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz. LA based Lux Aeterna Dance Company performed Jacob “Kujo” Lyons’ Punctum Saliens on the first night and on the night I attended, Compagnie Par Terre performed Anne Nguyen’s powerful hour long work Autarcie (…). Opening night a five-minute excerpt from Autarcie (…) was performed and last night the evening opened with an excerpt from Lyons’ Punctum Saliens.

Theatre Raymond Kabbaz - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Theatre Raymond Kabbaz – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz (TRK) is a small but charming theater located on the campus of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles and according to Theatre Director Pierre Leloup, it is the only theater in LA that is dedicated to presenting French artists. TRK just recently began presenting dance and even with its limited stage size, it is a welcomed venue.

The five-minute excerpt of Lyons Punctum Saliens was not enough to critique, but the three men who performed it were amazingly strong performers. The work appeared physically challenging and according to the press releases Lyons combines different dance styles “such as ballet, modern, Brazilian capoeira, gymnastics, circus and aerial arts, body-to-body partnering, and, most importantly, breakdance”. I look forward to seeing more of Lux Aeterna Dance Company.

Anne Nguyen founded Compagnie Par Terre in 2005 and has worked to bring Hip-hop artists to French stages. Her work takes elements of each artist’s specialty in popping, blocking or waacking, combines them with other contemporary movement styles and molds them into her own unique style of choreography. These dancers are not Hip-hop artists trying to look like modern dancers or vice versa. Nguyen has definitely succeeded in creating her own movement vocabulary and Autarcie (…) is a driving and compelling work.

Compagnie Par Terre - Photo by Philippe Gramard
Compagnie Par Terre – Photo by Philippe Gramard

The French word autarcie translates as self-sufficiency and throughout the work, one sees the struggle of these characters to gain independence from the norm. The piece opened with a very brief glimpse into each dancer’s personal style. We see Magali Duclos popping, Valentine Nagata-Ramos breakdancing, Linda Hayford popping and finally Sonia Bel Hadj Brahim waacking. These four amazing dance artists then perform an incredible unison phrase that is repeated over and over for several minutes before Nagata-Ramos breaks away like a futuristic assembly line worker rebelling to seek her freedom. She eventually awakens the others and an amazing series of solos, duets and quartets unfold. Nguyen has created for these women an alternate means of communication. They converse, encourage and support each other without speaking a word and we begin to understand their language. The movement is sometimes robotic but it never loses its humanity. The intricacy of the movement is stunning. The body isolation movements that take place with lighting speed are often mind-blowing. A diaphragm suddenly thrusts forward on its own as if it doesn’t belong to the person that it is attached.

Autarcie (…) is filled with different emotions. The repetition is madding at times, but it never reaches boredom. Nguyen constantly surprises, shocks and astonishes by using this repetitiveness to make a statement before shattering it apart. Each time the four women return to their original formation; they are forever altered. At the end, it appears that it is Hayford’s character who has reached total self-sufficiency.

The original soundtrack by composer Sébastien Lété also sounds, and feels, like a hybrid of New Age electronic music and Hip-hop rhythms. It drives the work forward and literally gets inside one’s bones. The unifying costumes by Courrèges are perfect in their simplicity and beautifully allow the dancers’ physical articulation and isolations to be visible. The lighting design by Ydir Acef is stark and successfully portrays a world of harsh conformity.  Autarcie (…) was wonderful to witness.

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Jeff Slayton
Jeff Slayton has had a long and influential career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. Born in Virginia in 1945, Slayton began dancing as a child in order to correct his condition of hip dysplasia. He enjoyed a performance career in New York dancing for Merce Cunningham, Viola Farber and others. In 1978 he moved to Long Beach, CA. where began teaching at California State University, Long Beach as a part time faculty member. He became a full time faculty member in 1986 and continued to teach at CSULB until 1999. Jeff Slayton was one of the faculty members that helped design the Dance Center at CSULB as well as develop and implement the BFA, MFA and MA degree programs. While in Long Beach, he formed his own company, Jeff Slayton & Dancers, that operated from 1978 to 1983. He continues to stage works in the Southern California area. He is also the author of two books, "The Prickly Rose: A Biography of Viola Farber" and "Dancing Toward Sanity". For more information on Jeff Slayton please go to www.jeffslayton.org.

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