Sunday 7 October 2007
Reviewed by Catherine Borra
On Sunday 7/10, the experimental artistic group Compagnie Beau Geste presented a ballet called Transports Exceptionels at the Southbank Centre’s Jubilee Gardens.
This fascinating choreography is a duet accompanied by the music of Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint Saens, featuring the voice of everlasting opera star Maria Callas. The opera from which the music comes from is fundamental, because the protagonists of this piece are none but French dancer and choreographer Philippe Priasso, accompanied by a mechanical digger. Yes, a digger.
Maybe one wouldn’t think of such a machine performing contemporary dance - however experimental the ballet might be – but this challenge towards traditional and more harmonic forms of representation results into a surprisingly graceful and sometimes witty performance.
The man is creating a relationship with the machine, constantly moving between friendship and love: concepts such as protection (on the diggers side) and childish playfulness (on the Priasso’s side) emerge from this 360° sensual double act. Yet at times, something like rebelliousness and domination accompany the actors’ feelings, although we cannot be sure of who starts off. Of course, the digger is not just a machine as it appears to have a human origin/derivation: its spade is more like a huge hand than a bulk of iron whose intent is to dig wholes. The rise of humanity and of consciousness inside this contraption is similar to that of a robot: there is some struggle for the man to maintain his power despite of his physical weakness, but in the end the positions are decided and the digger bows its head / hand.
In a short story by sci-fi novelist Isaac Asimov called “Robby”, a family robot decides it wants to become human at any cost. Other than being an issue regarding so-called “robot psychology”, this is just a desire of belonging that we can often encounter between humans as well: surprisingly, despite its oversized metal clumsiness, this robot-like machine turns out to be more similar to a spoilt child in need of attention.