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Lyon executes its three bold plans

The French troupe is superb as it brings original works to the stage at Royce Hall: choreography displaying athleticism, drama and fat suits.

October 23, 2006|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Living women choreographers who challenge assumptions about the music of long-dead males -- that was the premise of the three-part program danced by the daring, accomplished Lyon Opera Ballet at UCLA's Royce Hall on Saturday.

Indeed, in the oldest work -- and the only one previously seen in Los Angeles -- FrenchSpanish choreographer Maguy Marin focused on parodying the kind of structuralist postmodern choreography to Baroque accompaniment that turned up on too many stages in the wake of Paul Taylor's groundbreaking "Aureole" more than 40 years ago.

The by-the-numbers movement gambits looked especially absurd in Marin's "Groosland" because they were executed by 18 dancers waddling around in fat suits -- sometimes stark-naked fat-suits, though the men's were not anatomically complete, which meant that any danger of the work growing truly gross was, um, cut short.

Marin has long been an infinitely resourceful mistress of whimsy, but at 30 minutes her suite (set to music by Bach) grew thin even though the dancers stayed comically obese.

However, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker took structuralism seriously in her hyper-athletic "Die Grosse Fuge," and her eight Lyon dancers looked spectacularly fit in their exciting, unorthodox Beethoven adventure.

The work began with a solo for Eneka Bordato, the lone woman in the cast, and from that solo the men drew motifs that became the building blocks of the choreography.

As everyone stripped from suits to shirt sleeves and then (with most of the dancers) to T-shirts over trousers, Keersmaeker kept varying one of her key step combinations: flung-out unison air turns that suddenly became falling spirals ending with the dancers rolling on the floor.

The boldness of the movement caught the muscularity of the score and also expressed Keersmaker's feelings about male energy -- feelings also explored in less aggressive moments when everyone stood at the edges of the stage, sizing one another up.

Male rivalry also interested German choreographer Sasha Waltz, who began her "Fantasie" with slow, bizarre, unaccompanied combat for Fernando Carrion Caballero and Bruno Cezario, and then sent the two on separate journeys to music by Schubert.

Caballero ended in an intense partnership with Yu Otagaki, a woman passive to the point of utter collapse.

Cezario became a kind of corpse, held on high by other dancers in the eight member cast as if in a funeral procession -- but standing alone in the dark at the very end.

If too many moments were devoted to the dancers zooming around, arms stretched out like children playing airplane, the best of "Fantasie" had the power of dance-drama but no reliance on conventional narrative or characterization. As always, the Lyon dancers performed superbly.

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