Jerome Bel’s Cedric Andrieux at The Joyce

Jerome Bel’s Cedric Andrieux is a wonderful solo performance offering unique insight into the life of a dancer. Culturebot has has the chance to see several of Bel’s pieces, including the show must go on and Pichet Klunchun & myself and he is one of our favorite director/choreographers.

In Cedric Andrieux Bel has worked with the eponymous performer to create a solo show that tells the story of his life in dance. Though this is a solo show it is not overly autobiographical – or rather it is not confessional in the way we are used to it here in the States. The narrative is subtle and underplayed and really focuses on his life as it has been lived as a dancer, first and foremost. Though occasional biographical details come out – the influence of his mother, a humorous anecdote about his grandmother, a lover here and there – by and large this is about one man and his love of a particular art form, one for which he was not naturally gifted and had to work to master.

Andrieux is genial and approachable, he speaks in a quiet, heavily-amplified voice that allows us to hear him speaking and breathing in an intimate way. Even in the Joyce theater, you felt like you were up close and personal. He tells of being a child in France and becoming enamored of modern dance from a very early age. The personal stories are interspersed with performances from some of the seminal works in which he Andrieux was featured.

Andrieux studied at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris, joined the Jennifer Muller Company in New York for a year before becoming a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. And his years with Merce are in some ways the most fascinating part of the piece. For those of us who are new to dance, or have never been dancemakers ourselves, Andrieux’s explanation of how Merce would put the work on his dancers is a revelation. First he focuses on the legs and feet, then the torso, then the arms, each part of the body with its own work to do. We see Andrieux build a movement sequence in front of us and become aware of how complex even the so-called simplest gestures actually are.

In addition to performing an excerpt of Cunningham’s Biped, he performs excerpts from Cunningam’s Suite for 5, Trisha Brown’s Newark and Philippe Trehet’s Nuit Fragile. Each piece plays a significant role in Andrieux’s evolution as a dancer.

When we finally get to the part where Andrieux re-enacts part of Bel’s the show must go on, we’ve not only gained a deeper appreciation for the work of the dancer, but we’ve grown to appreciate Bel’s contribution to the field. Through these almost-anthropological works he has opened up dance to new audiences and heightened the knowledge of even the most avid dance-goers. Bel’s work is characterized by light humor that resonates deeply, that somehow opens up into worlds of larger meaning. He makes us re-evaluate the audience/performer dynamic, question our assumptions and look around us with new awareness.

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