Soirée - 2008
Compañía Alexandra Bachzetsis
"A Unit of Girl Guides": "Soirée" clearly continues the tradition of Bachzetsis' long-standing interest in the choreographic, dramatic potential of social situations and practices that fall squarely outside the scope of conventional 'dance' art. In the past, we have been treated to renegade readings of hiphop booty fetishism ("Gold"), mainstream Hollywood narration (the aptly titled "Mainstream" and "Murder Mysteries") and Busby Berkely-styled mass choreography ("Show Dance"); we have also been invited to tread the fine line between erotic art and exploitation, and felt both the voyeurs and the exhibitionists in the artists' treatment of striptease codes ("Act"). "Soirée" is perhaps the most socially complex of these experiments in staging – it is neither a show or a theatre piece (or a party or a live art installation, for that matter), but a social event in the truest sense of that oft-misused word, and one that requires a degree of audience participation in ways largely uncharted (and unexpected) in contemporary performance culture. The piece's foremost defining feature is its challenge of all existing conventions of duration: just like "Act" consisted of an act (and just like "Company" is a company), "Soirée" is a soiree – an evening party that is projected to last well over three, four hours every night. It is also, clearly, a continuation of the journey embarked upon in both "Act" and "Show Dance": it employs a similar number of individual performers as the latter – thirteen 'dancers' in all, making for an equally riotous, Fellini-esque inventory of femininity – and thrives on the same kind of glam punk cockiness as the former. As was the case in both previous performances, music is again at the heart of things: "Soirée" presents a string of musical acts (sewn together by a DJ) that are highly performative in nature, little choreographic vignettes that once again converge to paint a joyous, self-consciously sexy picture of Womanhood. These vignettes are part of Company's ongoing investigation of the flexibility and malleability of the codes that govern standard gender and identity practices; more importantly, however, throughout this laborious process of decoding and recoding Bachzetsis, Bleuler and Van Borm never loose sight of the ultimate law of entertainment – that of liberation through play. In another mocking attack on established choreographic conventions, the trio also 'play' with audience expectations and standardized rules of audience/performer-relations: the audience enters directly into the play on stage, where it is greeted by a wide array of services that do not usually figure in the social vocabulary of 'participation' (or its visual arts counterpoint 'relational aesthetics'), but which help to establish an atmosphere of what Company themselves call "uncanny wellness". Indeed, the ultimate goal may not be so much to create confusion and frustrate expectations, but simply to conjure up one giant smile running across the audience's baffled, flushed face. A genuine feat of magic – which is exactly why a professional magician figures so prominently in the scenography of "Soirée": he is there to dispense the sorcery of colour and light, call forth changes in décor and generally invoke the impromptu magical mystery of this riveting paean to female beauty and live love. In Soirée, they will stage a full evening's programme, which, in its form, will surpass the limits of a normal, hour-long performance. The programme will be based on magic, circus, concert and gala performances.