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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rachid Ouramdane/L'A.: World Fair

Posted by Virginia Thayer on Sat, Sep 17, 2011 at 3:34 PM

I'm not going to lie; I had a hard time with this performance. I hardly know what to make of it. Sure, at times I could see themes of nationalism, political oppression, and maybe rebellion, but it was all so conceptual, I could not connect with any of it.

As the audience trickled in to fill the Winningstad Theatre, dancer/choreographer Rachid Ouramdane, who comes to us from France, stood silently on a slowly spinning platform. Once the house lights went down, he started off the piece with a section of increasingly complex semaphore gestures accompanied by only a metronome on a starkly lit, minimal, industrial set... and it never got any more accessible than that. There was just no narrative through-line, and no appreciable attempt to involve or even acknowledge the audience. At some points it felt like Ouramdane was just freestyling in a basement with his buddy jamming on guitar, which is why I felt myself wondering why I was watching this.

Speaking of jamming on guitar, though, I was often more interested in watching composer Jean-Baptiste Julien's performance. His haunting piano melodies, mixed and engineered live and on-the-fly (as far as I could tell), were the best part for me, particularly when Ouramdane spent several minutes lying flat on the floor.

Granted, I may not be worldly or educated enough (how much is enough?) to properly appreciate or decipher this high-minded piece—and your counterpoints and illuminations are welcome in the comments—but I'm betting a lot of you would have also been staring at this puzzling production wondering, "what is this? What is the point?"

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