Compagnie Fattoumi Lamoureux

May 2, 2000

Héla Fattoumi in Wasla, a mosaic of the choreographers? North African and European heritages.
Photo by Laurent Philippe

Compagnie Fattoumi Lamoureux

Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center
Washington, D.C.

May 2?4, 2000

Reviewed by George Jackson

Light, mood and movement?in that order?are how one remembers this Tunisian French troupe?s intriguing program-filling contemporary dance work, Wasla. In retrospect, one also realizes how organically these principal aspects (and such others as place, space, music and duration) fit together. Yet that?s not how one experiences this company at first. Watching Wasla was an adventure; one couldn?t quite tell where things were going to happen or if they would.

Each of the three scenes begins with a luminous image, establishing a mood that is difficult to dispel. Details emerge as light spreads and intensifies on stage, yet that initial glimpse remains in the consciousness. At the start of the first scene, the world is a dusky golden expanse in which three figures stand; more light shows that the figures are females before a wall. The second scene?s purplish haze clears, revealing that the crouched shapes it enveloped are four men sitting on low stools facing each other. They?re intent, as if focusing on a game. In the last scene, a downshaft of light amid shadow looks like sun-drenched outdoors seen from inside a dark tent through an open flap. It turns out that a single figure casts that shadow, not in a tent but against the wall of a stone alcove.

The core of the motion used by choreographers Héla Fattoumi and Eric Lamoureux in Wasla?which means “linkage”?is a fusion of body language and contact improvisation, with the proviso that contact occurs principally within a body, among its parts, and not between bodies. Cause-and-effect rules generate streams of movement that are amply varied, yet coherent. The dancing of the first scene?s female trio, which encompasses both lyricism and tension, is directed mostly inward. In the next section, effort expended by the four men?whether competitive or caring?radiates out of their bodies.

The work?s last portion is danced by a female. Gender is and isn?t the point in this lonely solo in which feminine vulnerability and an all-encompassing craving exist side by side. Exploring the alcove?s concavity with trunk and limbs, then severing this external contact to surround herself with space, the dancer (Fattoumi) seems like someone entombed who is struggling to let her spirit be free. She does remarkable torso work against the alcove?s wall, and displays complex foot and ankle flexibility in part of the freestanding section. Her dour appearance adds to the sense of isolation.

was made a couple of seasons ago for the Lyon Dance Bienniale?s Mediterranean Festival. The work?s themes, lightscapes (illumination by Urvan Letroiga, decor by Raymond Sarti) and music (Christophe Sechet) reflect the Muslim culture of the Mediterranean?s southern shore, whereas its style belongs to the Tanztheater that has become dominant on that sea?s northern shore. The Washington, D.C., audience, which has been shown little top-notch European modern dance, seemed enticed to see more. I certainly was.