D’après une historie vraie (‘based on a true story’) is a contagiously joyful contemporary dance piece, a creation of the French choreographer Christian Rizzo. Born in Cannes in 1965, Rizzo’s interests are wide and varied: rock music, fashion design, visual art and, more recently, film and opera are all on his resume! Yet somehow he manages to distill all these influences into accomplished dance pieces that, while meticulously planned, seem to spring spontaneously from the stage.
The ‘true story’ of d’apres is a folk dance the choreographer saw on a trip to Istanbul. Rizzo has reimagined this experience, or rather his delight in seeing it, as eight bearded men in washed out t-shirts who dance barefoot on a minimalist set. They mirror each other’s movements, they undulate and weave, they form circles that fold in and out like origami boxes, or they leap up and down like pistons. Two rock drummers on a raised platform mark time with little drum taps and chimes; later, as their beat kicks in, they begin to head-bang.
Rizzo’s work is hard to pin down – but then who would want to. It has been associated with ‘non danse’, a genre that plays down movement in favour of other elements of a performance, such as set design, sound and lighting. Rizzo doesn’t like to be categorised, however, stressing that it’s not ‘non-dance’ he’s into but ‘yes-dance‘; that is, he does not demote any one element of a performance but thinks holistically, making a choreographic totality of interactive details.
Previous dance pieces go for evocative titles such as sakinan göze çöp batar (an overprotected eye always gets sand in it), ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang, or the classic, 100% polyester, objet dansant (no à définir), an ‘unmanned’ piece, in which ‘two dresses on hangers dance a ghostly ballet‘.
Rizzo’s dance company, L’Association Fragile, employs highly skilled dancers who can channel ‘their entire training into the simplest gesture’. And while D’après hints at the mechanics of ritual, it isn’t spiritualism that interests the choreographer, but in the way in which a ‘group’, with all its disparate elements, can transform itself into a community. This occurs in D’après as a kind of ripple effect, in which ‘timing and space (is) totally transformed all around by this little movement’.