A dancer and a 16th century sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini, The Nymph of Fontainebleau, turn out to have been the inspiration for the third program in the National Theater Concert Hall’s Dancing into Autumn series running at the Experimental Theater.
That may seem like an unusual combination until you find out the choreographer is French enfant terrible Christian Rizzo, who is, or has been, a fashion designer, rock musician and visual artist. Quite a Renaissance man.
Rizzo is a familiar name and face to Taipei dance lovers, having had residencies at the Taipei Artist Village (台北國際藝術村) in 2006 and 2007, as well as choreographing a piece for Dance Forum (舞蹈空間) in 2008, How to say “Here”? that sold out well before opening night.
b.c, janvier 1545, Fontainebleau was commissioned by the Montpellier Dance Festival and debuted in 2007. At the time, it was the first time Rizzo had set a solo on another dancer — former Lyon Opera Ballet dancer Julie Guibert. He was inspired to work with her after meeting her while producing a piece for the Lyon troupe. He has said he was drawn by her “incredible intelligence onstage.”
Guibert is well-known in the European modern dance world, having acted as muse for top choreographers, including William Forsythe and Russell Maliphant.
The hour-long piece is a mix of dance and performance art installation that Rizzo created in collaboration with two long-time aides: lighting designer Caty Olive and composer Gerome Nox (though the score doesn’t come in until about a third of the way through the piece and then at heart-attack inducing intensity).
Rizzo has turned the black box of the Experimental Theater into a white box and a cabinet of curiosities, with unusually shaped black sculptural objects hanging down or placed around the stage, which is lit by tea light candles, whose flickering lights create a moody ambiance.
Rizzo himself, face hidden behind a bunny mask picked up on an earlier trip to Taipei, acts as something of a silent master of ceremonies or ring master, moving the set pieces and candles around as Guibert performs, constantly recreating or reformatting the space. Clad all in black, Guibert could be another sculpture, albeit a moveable automation as she creates a series of tableaux. The choreography is often slow and tightly focused, almost ritualistic, turning the theater into a temple of sorts.
Rizzo is not for everyone. His pieces are as famous for being polarizing as they are for being visually stunning, as befitting his enfant terrible reputation. He likes posing questions, but leaves the answer or interpretation up to his audiences. b.c, janvier 1545, Fontainebleau will leave many viewers puzzled, but the imagery will stay with them for a long time.