Les Ballets C de la B

October 19, 2010

Les Ballets C de la B
The Joyce Theater, NYC

October 19–24, 2010

Reviewed by Susan Yung

Alain Platel’s
Out of Context—For Pina. Photo by Chris Van der Burght, Courtesy the Joyce.


Watching Les Ballets C de la B in Out of Context—For Pina, we are reminded of Bausch not only from the title but also when the dancers break the fourth wall, as they rise from the audience, climb onstage, and disrobe to their underwear. Like Bausch, choreographer and company founder Alain Platel (a friend of the German tanztheater pioneer) favors vignettes with a theatrical bent, set to a soundtrack-style mix of music (including Bach and R&B), and text spoken or sung. While it may not cohere as a whole, it is filled with experiments that pique interest on varying levels.

Out of Context
draws on seemingly involuntary movements, such as convulsing, twitching, and facial contortions. While much of it has little to do with known dance languages, the highly skilled dancers of C de la B (based in Ghent, Belgium) still manage to make it look like a studied technique; it rarely looks simply reflexive, as the premise might warrant. This is most evident when the stocky Mathieu Desseigne Ravel folds forward in half, his back muscles rippling as he balances on his hands, carefully shifting his weight. Wearing headphones that make him resemble a studio musician, reed-thin Romeu Runa performs another remarkable scene in which he curves his spine into an extreme arch. This intense flexibility and strength shows us what the human body is capable of with enough focus, not unlike yoga.

As the work progresses, the dancers’ attention seems to shift from inward to outward, a dawning self-awareness. Performers begin talking randomly into several microphones, parroting pop song lines almost unconsciously: “Give it to me baby,” or “Who let the dogs out?” This childlike emotional development is made literal as two babies, brought onstage by their presumed mothers, sit among the prone dancers. The dancers make awkward infantile faces for what seems an eternity, each swaddled in a pink blanket that serves otherwise to transform them into various guises—mysterious hermits, monks, Rodin sculptures, and more. An occasional high développé reminds us of their professional training.


Somewhat predictably, the work ended as it began—the dancers donned their clothes and rejoined us plebeians in the audience.