About the strange case of Michèle Noiret

And a funny country it is, this beloved Belgium of mine. Take Michèle Noiret, for instance: a household name in the French part of the country, virtually unknown in the Flemish part. Demain, her latest performance, won the Critic award of the best dance performance of 2008/2009 in the south part of the country, but passed unnoticed in the north. That’s why I just had to go and check it out, now that Théâtre National (Brussels), where Michèle Noiret is artist in residence, is programming a rerun, until February 13.After graduating from Maurice Béjart’s Mudra School in Brussels in ’79, Michèle Noiret worked with composer Karlheinz Stockhausen for 15 years. She founded her own company in ’86 and has, since then, created more than 25 choreographies. And still: drop her name on the Flemish side of the country and probably no one will be able to name one of those performances.

Not good enough? That’s certainly not something that can be said of Demain, Noiret’s most recent choreography, a ‘multiform piece for four assistants, one cameraman and one dancer ‘, which premiered in March 2009 at Théâtre National. Maybe it’s not always that clear what it is she wants to tell her viewers, maybe the editing of the performance could have been a bit better (some of the parts just were just too long) and some of the images she created on stage were a bit too ‘expressionist’ to my liking, but apart from that this is a powerful piece of work.

During the best moments Demain stops being a choreography and becomes an ‘artwork’. By this I mean that a lot of artistic elements are cleverly mixed as to give you the impression that you are looking at a sort of art installation instead of a choreography. Because Demain involves a huge video screen, and a second one that gets repeatedly hoisted from a water-filled reservoir, there’s one piece of the decor that can be put in various positions on the stage, and the ending of Demain proves to be a strong visual image as well. Apart from that, Noiret of course has those four assistants running around on stage, moving pieces of the decor, and there’s that cameraman filming Noiret’s moves during a striking part of the performance during which Noiret is dancing on, underneath and in between a couple of tables. 

The reason only my French-speaking friends know of Michèle Noiret? Beats me.

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