Saturday, 4 June 2011

Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde!

The Montreal-based choreographer Dave St-Pierre has arrived for the first time in London to present the second of his trilogy about human emotions entitled Une peu de tendresse bordel de merde! [A little tenderness for crying out loud!] at Sadler's Wells theatre. St-Pierre’s dancers, who were once described by Pina Bausch as “my pornographic illegitimate children”, bring a raw physicality and expressiveness to contemporary dance. St-Pierre himself no longer dances — he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 17 — and his work is suffused with a sense of his own vulnerability and mortality.

Central to St-Pierre’s vision is the destruction of the “fourth wall” — the theatrical taboo of connecting directly with the audience — which is pursued to dramatic effect in Une peu de tendresse. Not only does the narrator repeatedly taunt the audience but at one point naked dancers swarm across the seats including the upper balconies. At this point some panic-struck members of the audience fled the theatre but the corporeal spectacle created a lingering mood of uncertainty.

There are similarities with the confrontational works of the German theatre director Christoph Schlingensief but St-Pierre lacks the political edge of Schlingensief. At times the theatrical transgressions of Une peu de tendresse tend towards a slapstick anarchy that occludes the more subtle elements. In the poignant finale, however, set to Arvo Pärt’s ethereal Spiegel im Spiegel, the mood becomes more introspective. The dancers pour water onto the stage, the splashes sparkling in the theatre lights, and then glide their bodies across the floor. Eventually they lie flapping like landed fish gasping for life as the lights fade. Oscillating between the sublime and the puerile St-Pierre is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking contemporary choreographers.