Disco meets New Wave on a stage lit by stars

Le Syndrome Ian is the third part of French choreographer Christian Rizzo's trilogy investigating anonymous dances.
Le Syndrome Ian is the third part of French choreographer Christian Rizzo's trilogy investigating anonymous dances.PHOTO: MARC COUDRAIS

REVIEW / DANCE

LE SYNDROME IAN (SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS)

Christian Rizzo, Centre Choregraphique National de Montpellier

Sota Drama Theatre/Last Saturday

French choreographer Christian Rizzo has been investigating anonymous dances in a trilogy which began with folk dances in 2014, partner dances in 2015 and, now, nightclub dances in 2017's Le Syndrome Ian.

The work is a recollection of Rizzo's first encounter as a teenager of the music and dance of the late 1970s - the turning point between disco and New Wave. It places the heady world of nightclub dancing on stage, decontextualising it to reveal the body's intrinsic capacity for movement.

Like the night sky, the stage is lit by stars. The opening scene sees the dancers huddled in a mass, swaying as they sink into a collective state of pleasure. They are clothed in white and navy, thereby rendering uniformity across the ensemble.

Mingling as they form duets and trios, they evoke a beautifully exclusive intimacy with their melding bodies.

As easily as they come together, they disconnect and remove themselves from an embrace.

Jarringly, a cool indifference permeates the dance floor while a dark, grizzly creature lingers in a corner.

Rizzo juxtaposes the rapture of disco with the brooding melodies of the New Wave through the dancing body. The dancers break into the familiarity of the step-touch, their heads bob and their spines trace out a ripple as they indulge in the groove.

He presents a body that is relaxed, natural - one which is driven by what it hears.

The overt showmanship of the disco era is replaced by a subtle melancholy as bodies turn their focus inwards. The dancers dance in unison, but they might not dance together.

This gives way to a sense of ritual as the thumping beats build, the tiny flickering lights from before burst into fluorescent suns and smoke periodically dances through the air.

The basic step-touch is but an enabler as the dancers begin to spin, jump and kick with greater verve.

Little flourishes of the arms, flicks of the head and hints of a smile emerge as the ensemble weaves through increasingly complex patterns.

Amid snaking hips and tapping heels, the grizzly creature re-emerges.

After a while, there are seven of them and they seemingly threaten to consume the dance floor and all the dance it has weathered.

This is perhaps the physical representation of the title - the syndrome which plagued Ian Curtis, the late lead singer of the post- punk band Joy Division, who committed suicide after suffering from epilepsy and depression. His lyrics were tellingly bleak, his dancing, though jerky, had a peculiar magnetism.

Then, one dancer positions herself in front of one of the fluorescent starbursts and dances frenetically, as if she is offering herself to it.

Hers is a body hardened by harsher beats and darker melodies. She dances under a night sky that has gone dark. But she keeps dancing, nonetheless.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'Disco meets New Wave on a stage lit by stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe