Catching me by surprise, I find myself attached to Cédric Andrieux and amazed by his twenty-year career as a professional contemporary dancer after watching his 120-minute demo-monologue performance. Cédric Andrieux sets the casual atmosphere in his dress, wearing just sweats, a hoodie, and socks, and comes to the front of the stage, setting his liter of water and gym bag at the edge.
However, there is nothing casual about his stance center stage, his feet in a perfect parallel first and his arms hanging at his side. In a monotone with subtle variations, Andrieux delivers his monologue autobiography without any gestural movement except the occasional nervous clutching of his left hand.
The delivery is very similar to many of Jérôme Bel’s works. Andrieux’s solo fits into a series of interview/monologue/demonstration performances about real life dancers. The first was in 2004 with Véronique Doisneau, a solo for the real-life Véronique Doisneau, a dancer of the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera. In his solo, Andrieux does not perform not performing, however his tale is well paced, with a slow and steady delivery, giving time to visualize his stories as well as ponder what will happen next. At key moments this slow, patient delivery creates great comedic timing for well-worded comments.
We traverse the twenty years of Cédric Andrieux’s career, beginning at Brest at le Quartz, Andrieux’s hometown national arts center, to Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse of Paris, which Andrieux claims is France’s FAME. Andrieux spends most of the evening describing his time at the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in NYC, where he spent 8 formable years. Andrieux ends his story back in France where he danced for the Lyon Opera Ballet in the works of Trisha Brown, Odile Duboc, William Forsythe, and Jérôme Bel’s infamous piece The show must go on, recently restaged in Philadelphia for the 2008 Live Arts Festival.
At each point on the trajectory, Andrieux shows us a solo or an excerpt of the various pieces he has performed. While the raw dancing with no music and no costume (except if you count the tie-dyed unitard symbolizing all of Cunningham’s costumes) is impeccably performed with precision and grace, it is the moments when Andrieux reveals the behind the scenes workings of a dancer that really connects me to his physical experience as well as represents Bel’s unusual curiosity with putting on stage (and for extended periods of time) that which is often edited in the creation process. From holding a poise for art modeling, silent and frozen, to demonstrating Cunningham’s religious warm-up with interjections of “this is when I get really bored,” Andrieux generates humor and at the same time empathy.
It is also well chosen to show the excerpt “Every Breathe You Take [I’ll be watching You]” by the Police from The show must go on, because it completes Jérôme Bel’s vision of democratic dance (dance that can be performed by anyone) creating community. As Cédric Andrieux mentions, The show must go on consists of various pop songs, primarily in English, during which the performers do exactly what the lyrics say. In The show must go on, the cast, individually, stake out spots along the rim of the stage, looking out into the audience. It is at this moment under the unwavering gaze of the performers that the two communities are linked, truly creating a theater-in-the-round inside the confines of a proscenium stage. As so eloquently stated by Jennifer Dunning, “the fourth wall does tumble. All that is left is a laserlike connection between eyes on both sides of the stage.” With the audience watching the performers and the performers kindly and supportively watching the audience, we, in the collective sense, realize that this performance has incorporated the entire theatre of people.
As in the actual performance, Andrieux cues the music and then from starting offstage, he walks boldly to the edge of the stage. The house lights also come up, exposing us after such a long evening of his own self-exposure. Andrieux scans the audience with his eyes, connecting for a moment with an individual and frequently sharing a smile for the first time in the evening. Afterwards, Andrieux reflects upon when he performed the piece in 2007 at the Lyon Opera. He admits it was the first time in his career he was given the chance to see the audience, those who were bored or really enjoying the show, or like tonight, he points back to one audience member, who he shared a long look, where he felt a real connection.
Through kinetic empathy and intellectual awareness, Bel again crafts an audience-performer connection in this solo. In starting with such a stark image, a single man on a blank stage delivering a dry, even story, Cédric Andrieux has managed to emotionally entangle me. A classic Bel direction, to humble the dancer, reveal the hard work that they make look so effortless, and give us the empathy to care about what’s happening on stage.
Live Arts Festival
Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
Last show: Thursday, 9/16 at 7pm; $25