‘It’s showtime, folks!’ says Joe Gideon in Bob Fosse’s film All That Jazz (1979). Catalan choreographer Pere Faura had planned his farewell to dance as a tribute to Fosse’s artistic universe, but the Covid-19 outbreak brought another layer to the work: death. The result, Rèquiem Nocturn, feels like three or even more shows in one two-hour extravaganza glitzed up by playful text, brilliant video projections, live music by Telemann Rec, and Faura’s sharp wit.
‘Lord, have mercy’,‘We want a job, not eternal rest’. At the opening of Rèquiem Nocturn the ten performers – nine dancers and an actress – chant in Latin, in a kind of affirmative liturgical mass on the dancers’ right to work. On screen, Faura’s audition is juxtaposed with Fosse’s in All That Jazz. Against this sea of ready bodies and eager faces, the performers come on stage into the spotlight, telling us their names and personal stories.
There’s always razzle-dazzle: the piece keeps the whole ensemble active, walking across the stage or practising Fosse’s angular and sensual movements. When actress Gloria March reminds us how often Fosse has been plagiarised by pop singers such as Michael Jackson and Beyoncé, the dancers demonstrate the original choreography. But the climax comes with Victor Pérez Armero emulating Fosse’s snake dance from The Little Prince (1974). Hypnotising and tender.
Rehearsal and hospital scenes from All That Jazz are both projected and dubbed live by the performers, with hilarious dialogues about the lockdown in general and its impact on Rèquiem Nocturn in particular. Death becomes the protagonist as dancer Montse Colomé first tells about how she took care of her friends dying of Aids in the eighties, then well-known Catalan actor Pere Arquillué makes an entrance to deliver a sermon about how words always end up beating movement. A cloud of dancers follow the speakers, like figures in a religious tableau.
Loaded with solemnity and grandiloquence, Rèquiem Nocturn is an enduring and extravagant tale about the crossroads between mortality and the daily life of performers.