Unusually, Les Brigittines in Brussels holds an annual international festival when most theatres are still closed for summer. The programme captures new talents such as Mei Chen and Yannis Brissot, ballet dancers based in Germany. At the start of their performance, we sit in darkness longer than usual, an array of tiny baseboard LEDs illuminating the empty floor from the right. Then I hear some noise of movement: where are the bodies? Chen and Brissot, crawl towards the lights from the dark left corner, Brissot in full black, Chen in a black dress polka-dotted with white.
Their journey seems arduous but they move as an inseparable creature: one crawls bringing forward the other, and vice versa. As in silent film, their movements are amusingly faster than usual. When they place their hands on the floor with bent elbows, their forearms recall molluscs; when Chen moves on Brissot’s body, they are totally arthropod. The background music sounds even wittier, like a deformed, indecipherable human voice. We aren’t supposed to understand a hybrid of mollusc and arthropod, are we?
When the stage becomes brighter, the hybrid evolves into two stand-alone beings. Sometimes they dance alike, jumping like frogs for example; sometimes they compose a sign, like a sleeping ‘L’, Chen sitting on the chest of flat-out Brissot. The choreography becomes erratic but the continual emotional connection between the dancers keeps it engaging. Suddenly, a familiar melody starts fusing with the background music: a song by Edith Piaf. It’s not a necessary reference, but since I have it I cannot stop thinking of Piaf in the dancers’ quick short steps. Her thrilling voice emphasises the dramatic effect, making me believe that the deformed human voice has now been decrypted. Here comes an end, brief and crisp: two bodies lying under a spotlight, motionless. The sentiment behind this on-stage death could be universal, as Piaf sings: no, I regret nothing.