Dèjá Donné

September 29, 2005

Dèjá Donné
McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN

September 29–October 1, 2005

By Camille LeFevre

Since its first tour of In Bella Copia in 2003, the Prague-based dance-theater troupe Dèjá Donné has changed the cast and upped the ante. In this unflinching presentation on the interchangeability of sex and violence, Pietro Micci is the creepy emcee whose hypersexual acting-out thinly veils his insecurity. Teodora Popova slinks, strips, instigates, and gets her comeuppance.

Luca Alberti, with his shaved head and camo shirt, is the explosive homophobe with a masochistic streak. Instead of an almost rape, this production goes all the way. In a horrifying scene, Alberti renders catatonic Amina Amici’s virginal woman while Micci cowers nearby.

The point of all this? There doesn’t seem to be one. In the “world of never-ending happiness” created onstage, as Micci continually reminds the audience, the characters have “release[d] the bondage of reality.” Beatings, crotch clutching, breast fondling, and pelvic thrusting are the least of it. The work piles on one visceral image after another of sexual humiliation and manipulation, without narrative exploration or character development. The body—naked or dressed—is a blank slate on which sex and power, degradation and violence are writ large,

In Bella Copia
seems to say, and despite Catherine Dreyfus’ subtly tender interventions (she insinuates herself, with long, silky moves, between warring duos and trios) and Simone Sandroni’s tentative camaraderie (especially with the psychologically and physically stripped Micci), there’s nothing really to be done.

In between the work’s tableaux of sexual depravity, however, is lots of swift, exacting dancing. Violence permeates the incisive choreography of slicing, slapping, tossing, thrusting, and twisting moves. The women imbue their precision with an earthy, full-bodied quality that adds to their sensuality. One dancer’s step, grab, kick, or muscular movement sets another dancer in motion. Their arms and legs flick out, angle, and fold like Swiss Army knives.

The dancers wheel lights around the stage to redirect the audience’s attention and heighten a scene’s dramatic focus. They dive under and in and out of a long rack of clothes as they hide and reveal themselves. Although the performances are riveting, the content seems more intended to shock than enlighten—which renders In Bella Copia as troubling as its subject matter. See www.dejadonne.com.