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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Christian Rizzo's Quiet Daring

by Susan Yung

Lyon Opera Ballet in ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang. Michel Cavalca

Lyon Opera Ballet returns to BAM this spring with a quietly daring work by polymath Christian Rizzo. The company’s classical name is, by now, somewhat of a misnomer (although the dancers are remarkably fluent in ballet). The troupe was formed in 1969 by Lyon Opera director Louis Erlo; in 1984, under Françoise Adret, its focus became contemporary dance. Since 1991, Yorgos Loukos has been artistic director (preceded by several years in which he was associate director), commissioning and reviving dances by some of this era’s leading choreographers.

Reflecting on his ongoing mission, Loukos said recently, “I’m trying to expand the repertory and have different approaches by artists without excluding anything—neo-classic, modern, post-modern, more theatrical, and whatever young people are trying to do and show through a personal vision of dance and performance.” The list includes such varied visionaries as William Forsythe, Mathilde Monnnier, Trisha Brown, Rachid Ouramdane, Merce Cunningham, and Jiri Kylian. You’d be pressed to find a better, more multi-faceted representation of the current and past half-century of dance repertory.

Lyon Opera Ballet will perform Rizzo’s ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang, his first commission from the company, from May 7—10 in the Howard Gilman Opera House. The original score is by Gerome Nox, and the subtle lighting design by Caty Olive. Rizzo began his career by founding a rock band, and then designed clothing, pursued visual art, and over the last decade plus has created performance work and choreography.

Photo: Michel Cavalca

Of ni fleurs, Loukos said, “Audiences should be prepared to see different scenes from normal life—meeting people of different origins, with different costumes, different styles, and not necessarily looking like a dance company.” That said, there are moments of sublime transcendence. Rizzo shares some formative thoughts on ni fleurs: “Anything visible is the result of what is not visible. Presence then conjures up that absence... ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang is a continuation of my work on obsessions.”

As with a visual art installation or performance work, the experience is less linear than a narrative-driven piece. Classical technique and traditional movement phrases are not at the forefront. Small gestures and interactions can be scrutinized; the variegated and shifting costumes examined for associations, stage patterns, and interactions for metaphors. Scenes can unfold langorously, until you realize a sea-change has steadily morphed into place. And the ending is a dazzling and unforgettable vision.

A few years ago, at Brooklyn’s CPR (Center for Performance Research), Rizzo installed in the street window 100% Polyester, an elegant representation of how simple yet layered his work can be: two chemises (actually rejected costumes) on hangers were connected at their long-sleeve cuffs, and were blown about by small fans. The garments took on a life of their own, but also implied absence, past lives led, the loss of innocence. Rizzo, in an interview with fellow choreographer John Jasperse, said, “I couldn’t write a book, so I know that the only thing I can do is to write in space.” And he has stories to tell.

This is the third time Lyon Opera Ballet has been at BAM. It performed Phillippe DecouflĂ©’s whimsical Tricodex in 2004, which integrated live, streaming video of dancers leaping and caroming through the main lobby as the audience watched the footage inside the opera house. In 1999, LOB presented Mats Ek’s Carmen and Solo for Two at the Harvey Theater. Several years ago, the company performed at the Joyce Theater intriguing repertory by Forsythe, Cunningham, and Maguy Marin, examples of the repertory’s breadth.

As for the foreseeable future of Lyon Opera Ballet, Loukos says, “I’d love the company to have a very rich repertory, and give classically-trained dancers the chance to approach different forms of movement and dance; to be open to all sorts of new approaches.” Good advice for “classically trained audiences,” and viewers in general.

Reprinted from Feb 2014

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