New York City, New York
October 26-31, 1999
Reviewed by Kevin Giordano
Ever wonder what a ballet dancer looks like dancing next to a break dancer, or what a videotaped elephant looks like shuffling behind a traditional African dancer? Paris-based dance troupe Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu answered those and many other nonsensical dance questions in their evening-length piece, Paradis.
The piece was truly a tour de force of this generation’s dance possibilities. Only in this millennium-crazed era would break dancers share the stage with ballet dancers and not be looked upon as complete fools. After all, it’s possible. And this freedom to mirror today’s dance culture is what gives post-modern dance its innumerable possibilities. When it’s done tastefully, it can be rewarding, but because the line is thin between bad and good taste, a company can fall short of its grandiose vision.
Paradis consisted of a troupe of thirteen dancers, all of whom performed different styles of dance, from ballet to break dancing and most styles in between.
The stage included two screens, which projected images of the company doing prerecorded steps to coincide with the live performance. A very Euro artifice, the video complemented the movement, as well as weakened it, in many segments. But the film played a strong role throughout. The audience sees a dancer on a movie screen, then another celluloid dancer walking on that dancer’s head, only they are actually on their sides (from the audience it looks like they’re really walking on each other). Then a live dancer reaches out his hand to touch the two celluloid dancers. This was one of many episodes in the piece, and this sort of sleight-of-hand trickery said little for choreography but multitudes for vaudeville. That was fine, since the show aimed at entertainment, and the performance was, dare the word be usedentertaining.
Dancers Walid Boumhani and Moktar Niati offered the most riveting performances, capturing the hip-hop sensibility excellently in their break-dance tirades. Melanie Lomoff and Dominque Hervieu performed wonderfully as well, juxtaposing with panache the break dance with shuffling elephants and camels.
Halfway through Paradis, it was evident that the troupe were not losing any steam and the performance could go on and on. This stasis took away the possibility of the piece being more than entertaining; its art, in fact, was found in tiny moments. But as a whole, Paradis went past like a giant multicolored blimp.