Suchu Dance Entraps Audience with Roucoulement

Suchu Dance Entraps Audience with Roucoulement
Photo by Vipul Divecha

The Setup: On December 6-8, Suchu Dance presented Roucoulement at Barnevelder Theater. The company's latest evening-length concert takes its name from the French word for "cooing." All of Suchu's signature traits -- otherworldly soundscapes, resale chic costumes and abrasive choreography -- were there in plenty. The result was another humorous, tongue-in-cheek commentary on contemporary culture that could only be orchestrated by the brain of choreographer Jennifer Wood.

The Execution:

The set of Roucoulement manages to be both visually spare and cluttered at the same time. In one corner, there is a gathering of lamps missing their lampshades. On the opposite side of the stage, there is a pile of seven television sets. A six-foot wall and a denim cloth sectional fill the center space. The set gives the impression of a living-room environment, but one of a psychedelic, almost nightmarish nature. The lamps glow in blues, greens and reds, and the television monitors project blank and static-filled screens.

This false sense of familiarity is very much of the experience. The idea for Roucoulement, after all, was sparked from an advertisement for a hunter's dove whistle that lured the birds to their deaths with "a false sense of security." The dance opens with seven dancers seated in the sectional facing the audience. They are watching television, or more accurately, they are watching us. Their limbs pass through the couch potato shapes of television viewing in slow-motion -- curling the legs into a tight, comfy ball; stretching the arms and resting them on the back of the coach; peering into the screen as if a closer proximity will make the fabricated drama move a tad bit closer to reality.

As the score becomes more grand, so do the speed and size of the movements, which eventually rip the sectional into its five pieces. This is the beginning of the one constant theme of Roucoulement, that of watching and being watched. The dancers, in Suchu's signature vocabulary of frenzied, spasmodic movement, have one exciting -- and exciting to watch -- dance party onstage. No matter how banal the skill, every skip, run and bobble of the head seems relevant. Aside from the sectional, the wall is the one prop that seems the most crucial to the piece. The most exciting moments happen near or against it. I'm thinking particularly of a robust, energetic duet between Leo Munoz and Tina Shariffskul in which the wall is used to propel the motion and direction of the dance. Lulled into the daring by a false sense of security? Mission accomplished.

The Verdict:

I'm not entirely sure if I get the connection between the five-piece couch and the multi-colored lamps and that imposing yet familiar wall. I'm not even sure I understand the relationship between the dove call and postmodern dance. I don't know, and I don't care. When postmodern performance is this fun and entertaining, there's no need for a single television, let alone seven. That's the point, I think. That dance and live theater will always trump the reassuring yet inconsequential television fodder of the moment.

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