At la Ménagerie de Verre, a performance laboratory located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, France, I settle into my little floor cushion and notice a stack of speakers and a row of lights laying at a distance in front of me in the middle of the stage space. Amidst the chatter of my fellow spectators, I prepare myself for the début of a performance that I have admittedly not thoroughly researched par avance. Alors, carte blanche – anything goes.
Start the record. Yes, the record. There is a record machine live in the playing field, and our first introduction to Annabelle Pulcini’s creation, The New Number Order, is her own entrance headed towards this music making machine.
Her appearance is rugged at best, a bit grungy, if you will. Her jeans are slouchy yet tailored; the denim is heavy and so are her steps as she starts to dance a sort of space-claiming march where she is walking to the beat. Loud.
The music is at full force as one might expect in the bedroom of an angsty teenager or perhaps in the headphones of someone looking to escape from the mundane reality of a métro car. There is this tension building that makes us feel her blood pumping as she starts to jump in a frantic way, toujours in rhythm with the bass and always with a certain synchronicity between her limbs extending and the wailing of the minimalist rock group Shellac. Within the arch of each wave of sound, there are various parting streams of electricity echoed in the gestures of Annabelle’s body as it twitches and compulses through a phase of static poses and kinetic leg shakes. Enter Elise Ladoué, the co-conspirator in this performance rage.
I say rage, because there is, in fact, an urgency in the presence of these bodies radically imposing their existence in this exact space.
Elise’s entrance is characterized by the same weight we first saw in Annabelle’s steps, though this time, there is an emphasis on establishing territory. Elise’s trajectory is circular. She is walking around the periphery of the performance space. Then, she starts to run. The run is constant and sure. Her red hair flies into her face. Both dancers are caught in a self-imposed trance of cathartic release as they make their way to the small low riding platform on wheels, where the record player is waiting. Annabelle hits the button on the left and the music stops.
There is an eerie and satisfying silence left in the space.
Comforted by the sounds of heavy breathing, we are reminded of the virtuosity of artists who manage to transport the public into a world beyond while not forgetting the climate of where the performance is taking place. In this particular moment, the shift in tone feels quite on point, as I have just arrived a bit out of breath drenched from rain, like I imagine many did, rushing from traffic delays and police sirens…the aftermath of a day of gilets jaunes protests in Paris’ streets. As I watch the rest of the performance, I find myself asking questions about mystic fingers controlling sound waves and pelvic bumps propelling two bodies through space.
What if we could conjure peace through our fingers? Can we still affect political change with our steps in the street?
At one point towards the end, the two dancers start to move interchangeably, alternating between improvised free-styled shaking and classical arms in second position, spinning on two feet. Here we see two worlds, control and release, both gliding through space but at different speeds. It’s in this moment that I see in myself a dichotomy of obligation and desire, a conflict we all at some point face. As Ladoué and Pulcini continue to spin and shake and shake and shake and shake, it is as if they don’t have a particularly poignant way to end, but we can sense it’s coming.
I am struck by the simplicity of the work and reminded that dance is more than codified movements. Movement, in general, is about being present and sharing time in a place. Dancing is about appeasing stillness while also fueling release. As the performance comes to a close, I am pondering the importance of taking the time to live in the time happening, remembering to engage with both our need for confrontation and the necessity for calm even when the peace around us breaks.
The New Number Order was presented on December 7th and 8th at La Ménagerie de Verre as part of the Inaccoutumés Festival, November 13th – December 8th 2018. Choreography: Annabelle Pulcini. Performers: Élise Ladoué and Annabelle Pulcini. Music: Shellac of North America.