Possibly the most magical evening you’ll ever have: ‘Kiss & Cry’ by Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael

No matter how old I get, there will always be this little kid inside of me. That little guy that keeps on believing in magic and fairy tales. Sometimes it’s nice to see that other adults, accomplished artists even, are carrying this little kid with them as well and are not afraid to show it. But that’s not the only reason why I sat and watched Kiss & Cry by the NanoDanses collective in complete awe. It’s simply the most magical performance I’ve seen in a long, long time. Fingers, miniature train sets and film camera’s. It should be a worldwide hit.

The enchantment starts from the moment you enter the theatre and go looking for your seat. You notice a bunch of people walking around on stage, in what appears to be a film set. A couple of camera’s and lots of miniature sets and decors, here and there. Above their heads a giant film screen.

And then the performance starts, in a very clever way that immediately takes your breath away. The lights go out, and a camera starts rolling towards a table. On the film screen you see what the camera sees: it’s zooming in on that table and two people, dressed in black, behind it. Händel’s Lascia la spina comes on, and then, out of the black, two hands appear on that orange table. On the screen it’s the only thing you see: a landscape and two hands, as if they were two little people, performing a choreography.

Welcome to the magical world of Kiss & Cry. Or what happens when a talented choreographer and a filmmaker meet. Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael, the man behind films such as Toto le héros, Le huitième jour and Mr. Nobody. Their performance derives its title from the zone in which ice skaters stand when they are awaiting the points of the jury. It tells the story (words: Thomas Gunzig) of a woman thinking about her life and past loves. ‘What happens to people when they disappear from our lives, from our memories?’ Since the first time she fell in love, and she touched hands with that 13-year old boy in that train that suddenly came to a stop, she has been fascinated by the hands of her lovers.

Hands, they play a central role in this performance. Not only in the mind of that woman, but also on stage, as they are the only ‘living’ objects in a long series of short scenes and those ever-changing miniature film sets. The fingers walk, sit, bathe, sleep and hug. But they are not the only protagonists in this story. Sometimes the tiny little people in those train sets become real characters in the story on the film screen, or the shadows of those two dancers, Michèle Anne De Mey and Gregory Grosjean.

Just some fingers and miniature train sets? Yep. Drop all the prejudices you might have. And do remember that the pictures you see don’t do this performance justice. Because the beauty (and the genius) of Kiss & Cry lies in the fact that there are two things going on at the same time and that you are watching them both, comparing them every single moment during the performance.

You have the movie (the end result, beautifully filmed by Julien Lambert) on that screen, but even more fascinating is that endlessly changing film set on stage. Because that film is made every single night again, in front of the audience. You sit and watch how that group of people create magic. How they build all those different sets and take them down again. How they move the camera’s around. How they make all those tiny little props come to life.

Sure, it’s an overtly romantic, melancholic and poetic affair. But I can’t remember the last time I’ve sat and watched a performance in complete and utter awe and amazement from the very first until the very last moment. And the beautiful thing was: as I looked around me, everyone else was watching this totally enchanted too. When it’s over, you really feel that everyone slowly wakens from a wonderful dream. A truly unique experience.

(‘Kiss & cry’ premiered during the VIA Festival, at Théâtre Le Manège, Mons (Belgium), March 2011.)

For a short video, click here. You’ll find more info here.

Postscript on May 19th 2014: it IS a worldwide hit.

Funny how things can go. ‘It should be a worldwide hit‘, I wrote, three years ago, overenthusiastically, as I was completely taken away by Kiss & Cry. To my own amazement, Kiss & Cry hás become a worldwide hit. As I’m writing this, more than 90.000 (!) spectators have seen one of the 200 (!) performances of this Belgian theatre production by Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael. It has toured 35 cities in Europe, Asia (Seoul), North-America (Montreal, Boston, Pittsburgh), Latin-America (Chili, Mexico) and the Middle-East. By now the piece exists in 8 languages. Yesterday, I watched performance n° 201 at Les Ecuries (Charleroi, Belgium), and sat there, once again, in awe.

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