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Earths, the magicians of the earths

Jean-Marie Wynants, Le Mad November, 10th 2021

Created at the recent Charleroi Dance Biennial, Louise Vanneste’s new choreography links bodies to the earth.

When the doors open, there is first of all a perfume, a smell that floats in the air. At once familiar and incongruous in a theatre. Without even glimpsing the interior, hidden by the spectators who slip in, we are already plunged into an unexpected universe by the mere grace of our olfactory abilities.

Then there is the space. There is no stage, but the stands are arranged on either side of a vast rectangle entirely covered in moss. Green moss, real moss, like that found in the undergrowth, climbing up certain tree trunks. A moss giving off that characteristic smell that surprised us a few seconds earlier.

Scattered on this carpet of fragrant greenery, four young women stand motionless, as if indifferent to the spectators who are gradually settling in. When the hubbub of the audience dies down, we perceive a sort of vibration that will amplify until it takes on the appearance of an earthquake.

Yet there is nothing aggressive about this sound creation by Cédric Dambrain, choreographer Louise Vanneste’s usual partner. Rather, it is a sort of slow awakening of life that soon extends to the four remarkable dancers, Paula Almiron, Amandine Laval, Léa Vinette and Castelie Yalombo.

In this universe where the light includes the audience before gradually erasing it (wonderful work by Arnaud Gerniers, also responsible for the set design), the four young women each come to life in a different way. One remains constantly on the ground, another seems to remain motionless because her movements are so slow and controlled, a third’s gestures are only made in repetitive jerks…

All are dressed in white, but Jennifer Defays’ costumes have nothing in common with the usual diaphanous dresses of pretend princesses. Although white is the order of the day, the cuts are rather sporty, discreet, avoiding any sleeve effect or false romanticism.

Little by little, the bodies become bolder, trying out new movements without yet venturing to explore the space. Surprised at first, the spectator soon enters fully into this universe which seems to emerge from a world where plants and animals are one.

Arms undulate, steps are outlined, bodies straighten up, start to move, seem to briefly find a common rhythm while remaining unique and singular.

Between gentleness and sudden bursts

It is the awakening of a world we are witnessing: that of the forest where vegetation unfolds little by little, that of the oceans where algae and other marine organisms undulate with the tides, that of the canopy where the winds caress and shake the tree tops…

We are not necessarily aware of all this during the show itself, caught up in this life that bursts forth between gentleness and sudden bursts. Because Louise Vanneste does not play in any way on the field of “body expression” dear to the scout camps of the past.

At no time do the four dancers pretend to imitate a flower, a tree or a grass. At no point do they fall into the gentle illustration of fancy-fair.

The strength of the show lies in the fact that the choreographer has succeeded in arousing in her dancers a movement that comes from deep within each of them while being inspired by nature.

A small booklet with words and drawings is handed out at the end of the show and bears witness to each dancer’s research. One will look in vain for an explanation. Earths does not play on that ground. Nothing didactic, nothing imposed, nothing definitive. Everything here is in the intuitive, the feeling, the vibration…

We watch the slow blossoming of four organisms as we watch a miracle of nature: dumbfounded. But these organisms are indeed human and when the deluge of sound that has become telluric ceases, a false silence settles in, still bathed in the echo of this surge.

Other sounds then discreetly appear: tidal noises, heartbeats, snatches of song, murmurs from the dancers who are now standing, regaining their freedom to disappear into the dark. Alive.

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