A sports game on a football field? No: a spellbinding choreography (Boris Charmatz, ‘Levée des conflits’, Avignon)

Last time I said: try to steal a ticket (see review here). This time I’m inclined to say: don’t buy a ticket. Just go and stand on that Pont Edouard Daladier, with the cars racing by behind your back, and you’ll be able to see Levée des conflits for free. A dance performance in open air, on the green, green grass of a football field? No wonder I wanted to see  this extraordinary piece by Boris Charmatz and his 23 dancers once again, now that it was adapted especially for the Festival d’Avignon.

The sun was rising during Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Cesena in Avignon; I saw it go down again, during Levée des conflits by Boris Charmatz, while I was sitting on a blanket in one of the rows of a small, stone gallery, facing a football field. It was on that green rectangle, of the Stade de Bagatelle, that Boris Charmatz decided to recreate his ‘mesmerizing canon of movements’, as I chose to describe this performance after I’d seen it at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels in May.

As all the members of the audience grabbed blankets and cushions and were entering the field, they were told they could sit on the grass, along the four sides of the (invisible) ‘stage’: a big square that was going to be used by the dancers on that field. Some could sit in that gallery a bit further away as well. Here and there, surrounding that square, you could see big loudspeakers.

The sun hadn’t really disappeared yet, when that first dancer, Eleanor Bauer, entered the green square and started Levée des conflits. I was anxiously waiting to see if this performance would once again have  that same spellbinding effect, now that in some way it held no longer any secrets for me. (For more on how ‘Levée des conflits’ is conceived, read previous review here.) And: would it still be as powerful in this unusual setting, under these strange circumstances?

At first it seemed as if it was going to be a disappointing experience. One couldn’t make out the movements of the dancers all too clearly, with all these people sitting close to them. There was too much going on in the same picture: the frame had become part of the picture as well. Too much interference. The grass also seemed to be an obstacle. The dancers couldn’t jump or run that swiftly. All in all it looked too messy and unkempt. More of a sports game than a choreography.

But then things started to change. The sun was setting and the lights hanging above that square were put on. The volume of the music was turned up. And that tornado of movements by those 24 dancers started to do its job. It got to me, once again. That strange thing happened which all good choreographies have in common: when you see them for the second time, you notice things you hadn’t seen the first time. And you wonder how it could have been possible that you hadn’t noticed this or that part, this or that detail. I was in awe during totally different segments of Levée des conflits than the first time.

Walking back to Avignon, over that Pont Edouard Dalladier, I saw the moon rising next to the Palais des Papes. On my left hand side I noticed the famous Pont from that children’s song. I felt dizzy. Drunk on dance. Boris Charmatz. Once again.

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