DANCE REVIEW: Delights at Montpellier

The program of the 30 Montpellier Dance Festival exemplifies how and why this regional festival has become one of the more important in Europe.

ALONZO KING 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The program of the 30 Montpellier Dance Festival exemplifies how and why this regional festival has become one of the more important in Europe. Its artistic director, Jean-Paul Montanary, is known for promoting cutting edge and provocative dance next to world class companies, while often making choices based on his sociopolitical viewpoint.
This year’s festival, which began in mid-June and ended last week, was a case in point.
It offered dance delights by premier league companies such as our own Batsheva showcasing Hora, next to NDT, dancing iconic works by Jiri Kylian; Merce Cunningham's rarely performed Roaratorio, reproduced especially for Montpellier by permission of Cunningham before he died; installations by William Forsyth; Akram Kahn’s brilliant Gnosis – recently performed at the Israel Festival, Alonso King’s new creations; five different programs performed by Maurice Bejart's Ballet Lausanne, and much more besides.
Alongside those well established names one could find local talent, many conceptual dance artists and the new rage: provocative duo Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chianaud, who left behind them a trail of viewers lost for words.
First they introduced a creation for two dancers and two dildos, and next an aerial show in the ornate, posh, old Opera Comedie with 80 viewers requested to lie down on the stage. For their Sylphides, they packed three dancers in oversize black plastic bags and sucked the air out. Positioned motionless on their backs, they looked like bodies mummified in tar or carved out of black marble. Eventually one could detect short valves which enabled them to breath. A colleague from Moscow almost fainted and became sick as the performers seemed near death and were then “reborn” – the bags got unzipped and the dancers came out frolicking aimlessly.
In comparison, the latest creation by the festival’s pampered Raimund Hoghe, which is just as conceptual, offered a norm-compliant, well-respected minimalist dance.
For me, there was plenty of desire and sophisticated beauty in masterpieces by Kylian, such as Symphony of Psalms (1978) and Whereabouts Unknown (1993).
From an Israeli perspective, NDT has unfortunately not come here since its 1995 tour.
The Maurice Bejart company, who’s last visit to Israel was more than 10 years ago, cancelled their May tour to Israel at the last moment.. Company director Gil Roman insists that the decision had nothing to do with flotilla incident. He explained that the local impresario didn’t adhere to crucial technical needs, such as height of stage, and later wanted to move the show to an untried venue. “Originally we were supposed to come with four different shows,” says Roman, “which were later cut to two. With all the contract deviations we encountered, we had to cancel.”
They plan to come next year instead, to the opera house in Tel Aviv.
Also coming next season is American Alonzo King whose company toured Israel last year. Alonzo said that he was deeply moved and impressed with Israel and can’t wait to be back.