For those who regularly go to dance performances in Brussels, the evening of 14th May was long overdue. This was a chance to discover the work of five young dancers who met in Lausanne, at Rudra and Ballet Béjart, who decided to continue their choreographic adventure together in the Belgian capital with Maurice Béjart's imprint still deeply ingrained.
What would his choreographic legacy be? How could the younger generation, who had the chance to work with him, integrate and transpose their experience into today's society? What continuity could we perceive beyond the organization that continues in Lausanne? These are all legitimate questions we could ask in the aftermath of Béjart.
Well, it was a captivating performance of exceptional quality. This was what this new and last generation to have had the great fortune of working with Béjart, delivered. The five dancers, four male and one female in her twenties, who created the "Opinion Public" dance company last autumn, presented a piece that combined dance, statement art, music, video and multimedia, integrating social networks and the younger generation's undisputable brands. Through dance, they tackle a question about society: the decay of man against the all-powerful media and manipulation of public opinion; its loss of freedom being consumed by the press, internet, products, brands and sex; ultimately critical of consumerism and materialism in all its forms, reviewed and corrected by the appearance of new data technologies. A philosophical and theatrical dance of engaging art: First and foremost a sign of Béjart’s legacy.
A second feature is the beautiful dance skill enhanced by the contemporary choreography of Etienne Béchard (23 years old) who also performs as a dancer. His style which is visually wonderful evolves with speed and energy, flowing, light and including movements that are often fast and intense. He works a lot on step sequences together, which are well synchronized with the other three male dancers (Arthur Louarti, Johann Clapson and Victor Launay) but leave a little room for singularity, however, interesting for each of the dancers. He fully uses the space in all three dimensions including pirouettes, jumps, using the floor and the air and achieving an almost weightless scene. It is full of humour and features inflatable dolls as female partners for the four dancers.
We are reminded of Roland Petit's duet for Coppelia. But here, the dolls are used to illustrate consumer society as consumer sex is without soul, without love or man, happy at first, unsettled, empty and then eradicated.
Performing opposite the four male dancers, Sidonie Fosse is superb as the only female dancer. She uses outstanding skill that we couldn’t help comparing to Sylvie Guillemet. Her pure and expressive dance portrays this "terrible" domineering, manipulative, invasive and destructive public opinion well. Her complete power takes control of the male dancers. Opposite her, they lose their will and and identity, gradually turn into animals on all fours. Like a metronome, she is the one who sets the tempo for the men's lives. At the end of the ballet, having seductively completed her work, she resumes her original place on her pedestal, enthroned on a pile of newspapers. Throughout the evening, the ballet develops a rich range of emotions that are sensitive, tender, humorous, helpless and angry. There is a lot of variety in scenes that follow on from one to another, adding to the drama. A diverse range of music has been chosen to support the ideas with costumes gradually transforming that also add to these developing ideas. All this with a freshness and modesty.
This young company can easily captivate a younger audience that isn't necessarily drawn by dance because it knows how to talk to the younger generation. It's a modern show that is easy to understand. Etienne Béchard and his four companions display a vast level of skill through this production. It is a young and extremely talented company “in bloom”, a new generation that is in tune with today's issues attracting a wide audience. They are eager to be creative, research their subject and are not afraid to take risks. We should also acknowledge their courage in having set up a dance company out of nothing which is not easy in itself and made even more difficult during an economic crisis. One could question their level of naivity and lack of awareness.
No, says Etienne Béchard, it is the full commitment and the artist as a whole who wants to create and freely express themselves. Insecurity is the essence of art.
In conclusion, a future worth following, the shared opinion of Theatre and Festival Directors alike.