Performance Art Closes Francophonie Festival 2012
On Friday, April 13, the National Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard turned into a vibrant night spot with "Visio-Disco: A Remix of Music and Art." In collaboration with the Alliance Française, the Smithsonian Institutes and the Wallonie-Bruxelles Theater, the event featured a Belgian performance art group, French composer-performer Koudlam, and Washington-area DJ, The Pinstriped Rebel. The night marked the culmination of the Francophonie Culture Festival, a six-week series held each year in Washington to promote French-speaking cultures from around the world.
The performance art group, a Brussels-based troupe called t.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e, styles themselves an "interdisciplinary collective." They combine dance, live music and on-stage painting for an other-wordly show titled "Urban Distortions." As the evening’s main artistic draw, their set included a pair of giant pill-shaped plastic bubbles, in each of which a pair of dancers responded to music with steps both planned and improvised.
Four pairs of performers occupied the stage: two musicians, by turns playing the accordion, cello, and laptop-generated space sounds with vocals to boot. A male and female dancer roamed the stage’s perimeter, while a pair of men inside one of the bubbles ran in place, painted Chinese calligraphy on the transparent walls, and feigned death at the show’s conclusion. In the other bubble, a pair of female dancers, each dressed in red silk jumpsuits, moved to an atonal, driving soundtrack from the musicians.
Exploring ideas of territoriality, cultural mixing and even animal-inspired choreography, the troupe sought to present a pastiche of cultures, art forms and ideas in one performance, given in-the-round before a crowd that was by turns entertained and challenged by the ideas presented.
The piece’s concept involves a "poetic repertoire," says Pierre Larauza, one of t.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e’s two artistic directors. "We wanted to combine three territories: Hong Kong, Brussels, and a Kenyan village" from which one of the group’s members hails, he said.
The dance routines are likewise inspired by "discontinuity and fragmentation, offering audiences a new form of contemporary fable," according to the group’s website.
The mixed-media aspect of the show was fundamental to its design, said Emmanuelle Vincent, the second artistic director. She expressed her desire to combine performance forms (music, dance) with visual arts (painting, set design). The result is an "improbable mix," Ms. Vincent said.
The Francophonie Culture Festival 2012 was hosted this year by the Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. For more information on events and programs offered, please visit www.francophoniedc.org.