Most dancers never have the opportunity to truly portray themselves onstage. Even the strikingly honest and vulnerable performers we know and adore are most often executing someone else's vision--the choreographer. In Cedric Andrieux, Jerome Bel sets out to shake up the customary relationship between dancer and dance-maker through this solo work, performed by former Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Cedric Andrieux for Contemporary Arts Museum Houston audiences on Friday and Saturday.
In conjunction with CAMH's current exhibit "Double Life," Andrieux's performance exposes a role frequently left unseen: the role of a real working dancer. Choreographer Jerome Bel's first solo in this series, 2004's Veronique Doisneau, tells the stripped-down biographic story of French ballerina Veronique Doisneau, who, in her own words, "never became a star."
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The work was praised for its unorthodox format and its ability to candidly capture the struggles and successes of a mid-ranked ballerina within the renowned Paris Opera Ballet. In the way Doisneau's solo primarily focuses on her experiences within the world of ballet, Andrieux's gives audiences a behind-the-scenes look into the realm of modern dance.
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Andrieux begins the work standing before the audience, dressed in casual rehearsal attire and wearing a headset microphone. He speaks slowly and clearly, first introducing himself to the audience, then narrating moments of his own life as a dancer born in 1977 France. He recalls what it was like for him growing up in the 1980s and shares his journey into contemporary dance--from his eight years with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to later performing with the Leon Opera Ballet. He further recollects projects between Cunningham and Cunningham's romantic partner/collaborator composer John Cage--giving a first-hand account of two 20th century artists who radically effected their fields.
The solo relies heavily on spoken monologue, but the performance also includes Andrieaux dancing movement passages from throughout his career; the account is an intimate glimpse into his inner terrain. "This series of solos gives a voice to individuals who are normally silent...the audience is able to look at the dancer as an autonomous individual," explains CAMH Curator Dean Daderko.
Bel and Andrieux, like Bel and Doisneau, began crafting the work by sitting and conversing on the topics of personal history, thoughts, sacrifices, practices, and passions; the lived experiences Cedric shared with Bel were then transcribed into the solo's script. Through this unique approach, a comment on the hierarchical relationship between choreographer/director and dancer is very clear. In an art form that often views the dancer as technician and executor, a position that can become alienating at times, Bel takes a personal interest in the full life of a singular dancer.
Friday's performance begins at 7 p.m.; Saturday's events include a 2 p.m. Artist Talk with choreographer Jerome Bel and a 3 p.m. performance. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. For information, call 713-284-8250 or visit camh.org. Free.