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Thursday, May 06, 2021

The Wall’s a Stage

This Immense Intimacy could be another ballet, except that it represents a new form of dance that defies gravity.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
Updated: April 26, 2014 12:19:12 am
Olivia Cubero in Bangalore; her performance in Delhi. Olivia Cubero in Bangalore; her performance in Delhi.

There was no ground beneath her feet, only a drop onto the upturned heads of the audience. Dancer Olivia Cubero was suspended several feet high on a wall, her face and hands pressed against its surface, much like a child clinging to its mother. As music filtered out, Cubero emerged from her meditative stance and began her ballet — on tip-toes, she pirouetted or flew across the wall. At times, she broke free of the surface entirely and, using ropes and a bungee cord, tossed herself from one end to the other. Once she came a halt parallel to the ground and looked straight down at the people; a god-like figure dressed in white.

Titled Cette Immese Intimite or This Immense Intimacy, this performance was held at a heritage building of IGNCA on Wednesday evening as part of DanSe DialogueS, an Indo-French festival of contemporary dance presented by the French embassy, Institut Francais and Alliance Francaise. The piece had also been staged in a parking lot of a mall in Bangalore earlier — different from the landscaped lawn, focused audience and starlit sky of IGNCA —  and the experience, says choreographer Fabrice Guillot, was similar to filling a “a prosaic place with something beautiful”.

Guillot, a 50-year-old Parisian, was born to mountaineer parents and was “climbing even before I came into this world”. Choreography followed climbing and has informed it ever since. “Rock climbing or wall climbing are a lot like dancing. To climb a rock is to solve an enigma, you have to look for footholds, and imagine your movements and breathing. Sometimes it takes months to realise a movement,” he says, “Walls have a mythical value to me. They inspire me, call me, excite me, create desires in me.”

Abseiling, myth, movement, music and drama merge in The Immense Intimacy, wrapped in Guillot’s other passion — poetry. Cubero’s dance, for instance, is filled as much with anti-gravity postures as with lyricism, like stanzas that rhyme. “A dance is not about swinging from ropes on a wall. For the past 10 years, I have been creating pieces that use music, lights, costume and other dramatic elements,” he says.

In The Immense Intimacy, Cubero was accompanied by projected images of herself dancing — Guillot explains the images are the dancer’s memories of another performance but leaves the final interpretation to the spectator. “There is no one way to see it, just as each one of us reads a poem differently. My aim is to provide an experience to the audience. To see a man or a woman in that state of verticality is a mythical experience. We share the space with birds and free air. There’s a poetic sensation of freedom,” he says.

Guillot’s Compagnie Retourmont is among the 40 or fewer companies across the world that work on aerial or vertical arts, from theatre to painting, with around 25 experimenting with dance. The choreographer says that most dancers stream in from practices as varied as circus, rock climbing and classical dance to create a form that is around 25 years old. “Cities the world over are full to saturation but, look around, 90 per cent of walls are free for my art form,” says Guillot. India has largely been untouched by this contemporary dance movement, getting glimpses of it when foreign groups perform here. A few years ago, for instance, a San Francisco-based company Project Bandaloop had danced on the facade of the LIC Building at Connaught Place.

Compagnie Retourmont has performed in castles and monasteries, on stone exteriors and concrete, on motorways, above streams and between skyscrapers. At IGNCA, the response of the audience was of silence, wonder and then a rapturous ovation. “As with reading poetry, you have the sensation that the world is not the same any more. But perhaps, you are the one who has changed,”
says Guillot.

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