Tragédie at Sadler’s Wells
Jokes aside about dressing room banter, an entirely naked dance company gives Olivier Dubois’ Tragédie such an utterly raw and graphic quality that you wonder why it’s not done more often. Vulnerability and basic primal instinct are themes that pervade the contemporary dance scene, and what could be more revealing – more natural – than nudity?
For Tragédie it could be no other way. The final piece of Dubois’ trilogy, which focuses on resistance and revolution, the work brings to the surface and sets free the core humanity that resides deep within us, stripped of social morals, fashion, behavioral structures and civilising education. It is a study of the boundaries of human nature and its fight for survival.
Split into three parts, the piece opens with the company (nine men and nine women) walking routinely up and down the stage. It has the aesthetic of a catwalk, only they’re not flaunting or selling or exhibiting, merely functioning like clockwork: deadpan faces and steady paces, in time to the ominous drums. This goes on for quite some time yet does not get boring – it goes beyond barbaric tedium and leaves a real sense of suspense and seriousness in its wake. It almost feels like an initiation, getting you used to their bodies while they work up strength.
And when they do start to break the relief its like that of drinking strong squash after a pint of weak; life and energy starts to seep into their movement, they twitch erratically and break their poker straight lines. As the military regularity loosens, fear is replaced by nervousness and frenzy. A liberated madness soon takes over and the final section builds to a climax of ecstasy and exhaustion, the dancers shouting, running and twisting their sweaty naked bodies with freak agility.
Despite each dancer following individual compulsion, the heavy beats of the music unites them. The power of this performance is in the common nature, the underlying rhythm of the dancers that combines their energy into one great organism. Helped by the vivid use of strobe lighting, at its peak Dubois’ work represents something like a techno rebirth of a Greek tragedy.
Tragédie is at Sadler’s Wells until 10th May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Tragédie here: