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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2024: Cellule

Cellule. Image Dainius Putinas


To the maxim ‘don’t believe the hype’ might be added ‘be wary of the blurb’. Too often posturing jargon or academic Artspeak trying to pass as insight. Talking big to inflate exceedingly small concerns. Rather like the blurb for Cellule, by French choreographer and dancer Nach. A solo dance work which purports to speak to Krumping, activism, racism, individual expression and to two pints of whatever you're having yourself. Instead, it speaks little to the above and says even less. Yet when it speaks to the dancer’s body, it’s both mesmerising and beautifully articulated.

When future dance histories are written, the influence of Afrika Bambaataa must be acknowledged. His promotion of Breakdance back in the early 1980s the precursor for Hip Hop and its many generic offshoots, including Krumping. A high octane mix of body popping and electrifying robotics full of swagger and threat that’s often violently charged but never violent. Not that you’d know it here. A dull intro finds a loud, disembodied crowd offset by blurred, black and white images evoking a museum space or empty gallery. Projections done, Nach finally takes to the stage. Opening with detailed articulations of Krumping in slow motion with Tik-Tok levels of facial expression. Which is like saying it’s Formula One driven at a snails pace with exaggerated visage. Fach’s hands raised above her head in prayer, in pleading, or following police instructions. Till it soon becomes clear this was never about Krumping, or activism, but Fach.

Cellule. Image Dainius Putinas

Confirmed as the first level of disrobing begins. Fach losing her tracksuit top, and, shortly, bottoms, as sinuous silhouettes converse on the back wall followed by a cliched projection suggesting Fach giving birth to herself. Leading into a sublime sequence. Objectification denied as Fach invites us not to look at her but to look with her at the dancer’s body. Emmanuel Tussore’s masterful use of light crafting every tension and extension. The body's musculature etched in shadow; the crafted calf, the distended belly, the ankle twisted, the back arched. A wash of red reinforcing the body’s bloodied musculature before it all descends into cliche. The blurred images returning supported by asinine text trying to supply meaning only to sound hollow and immature. Meanwhile, Fach bends backwards inside a rectangle of red light like an Amsterdam sex worker on a quiet night.

A lazy set up for the nudity that follows. The body’s vulnerability rendered two steps removed behind the dual frame of stage and screen. A black and white projection of Fach dancing naked whilst her immediate, semi-dressed body sits still on stage. Movements hinting at a power to be guessed at but never felt. Suggestive of the work of Fitzgerald and Stapleton, but with none of their bravery or visceral immediacy. Efforts to pare it back to basics in the final sequence falling short. Krumping again delivered in Disney slow motion. This time to a soft piano score and another excess of facial expression. The house lights brought up as if to say, ‘no more artifice, this is me.’ But it’s a ruse. A spiritual burlesque as Fach’s fluttering face conceals what the blurb purports to reveal. Fach a good girl slumming in a tough neighbourhood. Her eloquent investigation of the dancer’s body finding her guilty of backing down when she needed to keep going and front up. A major faux pas in the world of Krumping. Backing off from the rage, the rawness, the relentless energy. From the place Krumping speaks from, which Fach only glimpses, then sanitises. Cellule, ultimately, offering glimpses of a glimpse. The distance between street and stage reimposed for being imagined along tired, old lines. The street once again sanitised in service to the stage.

Cellule by Nach, presented by Dublin Dance Festival, runs at Project Arts Centre until May 15.

For more information visit Project Arts Centre or Dublin Dance Festival 2024


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