Dance Review

Montpellier Dance Festival June 23 – July 7 South of France

A SOLO performance by South African Steven Cohen proved to be a festival highlight. (photo credit: Courtesy)
A SOLO performance by South African Steven Cohen proved to be a festival highlight.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the Montpellier Dance Festival’s 37th edition artistic director Jean-Paul Montanari displayed rich, diversified productions, ranging from the iconic Lucinda Childs Dance Company, which a week earlier performed Dance at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, groundbreaking Canadian company Marie Chouinard, the Dutch National Ballet, Anjelin Preljocaj, Opera Ballet of Lyon and many more.
TENWORKS by Emanuel Gat, a successful Israeli choreographer residing in France, was danced jointly by the Gat and the Opera Ballet Lyon companies. Gat was also commissioned by the festival to create five site-specific duets, which drew big crowds.
Another Israeli company which always attracts attention is Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. Their new creation Love Chapter 2 was chosen for the festival’s closing events.
Yet none of the other 18 companies that took part in the festival induced as much buzz as the solo performance by ultra-creative South African provocateur extraordinaire Steven Cohen.
For a change, he didn’t resort to total nudity or overt sexual acts – but for many he didn’t merely cross the line, but trample it over and over again. They found it difficult to watch on- and off-screen manifestations which challenged our behavioral codes and perception of death.
On a phone conversation, Cohen told The Jerusalem Post that he was born and raised in a middle class though privileged white practicing Jewish family. He keeps some Jewish practices on occasion and turns to God when stressed. Living as a conservative and a gay man, he cannot however be an embedded part of the community.
He started to work on Put your heart under your feet... and walk/ for Elu with his life partner Elu Keizer last year. Since Elu, his love for 20 years, died last year, Cohen made many changes.
Cohen walks on spectacular stage among rows of artistically manipulated ballet shoes, and around a table set with rococo-like candelabras and makeshift ornamented candle sticks, dressed in bizarre, highly invested costumes. On the screen you can see his elaborately ornamented makeup, like a butterfly with a Star of David on the forehead. He wears platform shoes with extensions, taking a risk each step.
Later on we see a video taken at a slaughterhouse. Without going into all the gory details, I will only say that the prolonged scene includes various actions under the bleeding carcasses of large animals. Cohen is soaking in a basin full of blood and fat, wearing a dress fit for a court, and shows no signs of reluctance; he truly radiated innocence, like a fallen angel.
On last scene, he blesses in Hebrew the Shabbat candles – a role of the wife – then the wine, which he drinks, and recites blessings for the bread. He opens a small wooden box and with a silver spoon he scoops out ashes of his cremated love, and swallows. Tears flood his eyes. Strangely, it was the most profound and touching eulogy ever performed on stage.