Boris Charmatz/Dimitri Chamblas

October 26, 2006

Boris Charmatz/Dimitri Chamblas
Danspace Project at St. Mark�s Church, NYC

October 26-28, 2006

Reviewed by Susan Yung

Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas in their duet, � bras-le-corps

Photo by Pierre Fabris, courtesy Charmatz/Chamblas

Lifelong friendships are living organisms that change and evolve with the passage of time. Likewise with artistic collaborations, which when renewed, can benefit from a shared history as well as time apart. Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas investigate both in their fascinating duet, À bras-le-corps, performed as part of the European Dream Festival. The twosome has performed the piece periodically since its premiere in 1993.

Created when the choreographers were teenagers, the piece is fascinating not only for its choreography but because of the dancers’ relationship, which continues to season with time. Much of what must have made the work revolutionary at its premiere has turned up in many other artists’ works since then, whether inadvertently or on purpose: the boxing ring setup with viewers on four sides; the casual interface of Charmatz and Chamblas with spectators (and some not so casual, as the flinging of a viewer’s shoe across the stage); the dissolution of the buffer between stage and audience, with some of the seats held empty for the dancers to rest. It’s the work’s conception as a lifelong partnership—a reverse nostalgia—that packs a wallop.

Chamblas, swung through the air by Charmatz, bent his legs to avoid kicking a viewer, creating an improvisatory vibe that prevailed until they repeated this phrase later in the work (narrowly avoiding the same viewer’s face in exactly the same manner). This may be a precisely choreographed work, but the two dancers continually tested the limits of control. Dollops of martial arts, ballet, and gestural improv cropped up, as did bursts of humor and charm. Sometimes they burst across the stage in bold moves, frightening targeted viewers. The performance looked effortful, and the guys sweated, panted, and collapsed occasionally into assigned empty seats during scene shifts.