Cie BurnOut in Jann Gallois’ Samsara

REVIEW

Jann Gallois: Samsara

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Cie BurnOut in Jann Gallois’ Samsara. Photo © Laurent Philippe
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Charles A. Catherine
All rise: choreographer, curtains, dancers and spirit ascend in a piece about worldly bondage and higher powers

Rising French star Jann Gallois always chooses simplicity of scenery and complexity of intention, so the dancers themselves become the main vehicle for her message. The curtain rises on her latest work Samsara to show a white stage, a bunch of dancers facing you in a circle of light, a thick black rope reeled around their waists, arms, necks, attaching them all together. The ensemble moves in one direction, then another: they’re a community, no doubt about the metaphor. The moves are clear and clean, betraying the hip-hop influence of Gallois’ background; but the faces are blank and tired.

As individualities begin to rise, they gradually unwind the rope, getting more space – and trouble: can the community deal with individual moves? A little story of power and freedom starts, of mastery and bondage, puppets and players: ropes definitely make sense. Every move is danced, every body is more and more spirited, using the ropes to fulfil a purpose, or to defy their coercive power. Harassment, sexual domination and rejection, manipulation – nothing’s missing. Is Samsaraa political work? Not only.

As time goes by, spirituality arises. Samsara is the Sanskrit concept of existence – the cycle of life, death and rebirth from which the questing spirit seeks escape. The connection between the dancers becomes less horizontal, more vertical. Exhaustion in their domination games leads to lighter moves, but also to falls. Once all fallen, the lighting rig descends from the flies like some electric eye of God. A man in black attaches the ropes to it, and as the eye ascends again a new ballet begins, made of suspensions, reciprocal supports and soft attempts to dissolve the aerial human cluster that has formed. The air becomes foggy, backlit. These humans might be doomed, or saved from their destiny. The scene is impressive, fascinating. How did it happen? The dancers went from collective enslavement to individual revelations, to collective empowerment; but always led by some higher force. You choose which one.

The bottom line: A high-level work that rises to its own physical and spiritual challenges
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Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris, France
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Choreography, scenography: Jann Gallois / Consultant scenography: Delphine Sainte-Marie / Lighing: Cyril Mulon / Music: Charles Amblard / Costume: Marie-Cécile Viault / Outside eye: Frédéric Le Van / With: Inkeun Baïk, Carla Diego, Shirwann Jeammes, Jean-Charles Jousni, Marie Hanna Klemm, Jérémy Kouyoumdjian, Laureline Richard

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