Avignon Festival’s “Sujets a Vif” takes language as theme, but contradicts title

By Lucy Komisar

A dance event of the Avignon Festival featured two productions about words and language. A Vif means bright, or lively, keen, vivid. Neither production lives up to those words.

“Prononcer Fénanoq”

It had to come that a production called “dance” had nothing to do with dance, but was about words. Perhaps in the same way that installations called “art” were really assemblages of life‘s detritus, or sometimes just the takings of a messy apartment.

Pierre Fourny and Cécile Proust, photo Jacques Hoepffner.

“Prononcer Fénanoq,‘ created and performed (to use that word loosely) by Pierre Fourny and Cécile Proust, uses large cards with French words (they reminded me of school flash cards) to attack the use of masculine and feminine in the French language, which apparently dates to the 17th century.

As a feminist I am always interested in structural sexism. As a student of languages (French, Spanish, Italian, German and more) I hate having to remember the genders of nouns. (And don‘t get me started on declensions.)

But having two performers move around a space pointing out/attacking words where gender is sexist, is not my idea of dance. As much as I sympathize with their politics. You can see it online.

Prononcer Fénanoq.” Created and performed by Pierre Fourny and Cécile Proust. Jardin de la Viere du Lycée Saint-Joseph. Avignon Festival, Avignon, France. July 19-25, 2018.

“Long Time No See”

This gimmicky production features two dancers, explicitly introduced as Hungarian (Beatrix Simk³) and Finnish (Jenna Jalonen), dancing with and at each other and ending up nude. I always interpret that as a desperate move by the choreographer to keep audience attention from wandering.

Beatrix Simk³ and Jenna Jalonen, photo Daniel Dömölky.

The idea is that their languages, which are related to each other, isolate them from the dominant Romance and Germanic tongues of Europe. We see them in traditional costumes, blue and red culottes, as they turn like tops. A clothes line is hung with traditional white dresses with blue embroidery.

Water gurgles from a hidden fountain. The moves turn acrobatic, then to marching. Organ music is eerie and reverberates off the ivy-covered stone walls of the courtyard of the school where the production is staged.

The dancers enter a glass and wood sauna, their bodies intertwine. I found it exploitative. Middle-aged guys are dragged up to the stage and have hard hats clamped on them.

It‘s called “Long Time No See.” The piece went on too long, and I didn‘t see the point.

Long Time No See.” Choreographed and performed by Beatrix Simk³ and Jenna Jalonen. Jardin de la Viere du Lycée Saint-Joseph.  Avignon Festival, Avignon, France. July 18-24, 2018.

Click here to donate to The Komisar Scoop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.