Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Standing in the way of control

New Yorkers still have time to catch Pierre Rigal and Aurélien Bory's érection, which is at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, on W. 37th St, until Saturday evening; it lasts 45 minutes, costs only $20 and is general admission, so there's no excuse.

I was lured by Bory's name: I loved his work on Cie. 111's Plan B a few years ago. That mix of dance, athletics and circus (presented at the New Victory) was tied together by a perpetual jostling of the viewers' visual perception. That overall theme is present as well in érection, which Bory directed and designed, and which Rigal choreographed and performs.

It was off to a slow start—Rigal alone on stage, within a square delimited by light. Okay, I can't deny that the first 15-20 minutes are on the uneventful side, as the crouched Rigal tries to stand up but cannot quite do it. He moves around, gets imprisoned within ever-evolving areas defined, again, solely by light. But gradually a purely visual kind of bliss emerges. As I watched Rigal attempt to "evolve" from a supine position to an erect one, my mind kept coming back to how this could be read as a poetic answer to creationists.

My colleague Gia Kourlas gleefully rained on my parade by telling me that a strobe-light effect I enjoyed (it's timed so that Rigal looks suspended in mid-air as he bounces up and down) was a rip-off of something David Parsons did a few years ago. Oh well…I still loved it, and it made me wish NYC theater and opera directors went to see more dance, which seems to be light-years ahead in its use of lighting and projections. Peter Gelb (who comes across as unbelievably smug in a recent New Yorker profile) should go out more; he'd realize the stuff he's so proud of is 20 years behind. (Granted, an improvement on the previous regime, which was 40 years behind.)

By the very end, Rigal is lit so that he looks like a 3-D hologram of himself. He was a few feet from me and yet I hesitated to trust my eyes; in the back of my mind was the feeling that I was being tricked, that the performer had rushed offstage and been replaced by something out of Tron.

There's nothing like being bamboozled live, in a small space, by mere lighting—it's a very different experience from being tricked by million-dollar CGI in a movie. One engages all your senses and makes you question reality itself; the other you just kinda look at.

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