Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Dance Review: Self Punishment – The Solo Show, Perre Rigal at BAC


Pierre Rigal in Press, Photography by Frédéric Stoll

Not many people choose to do a solo show and there’s a reason for it.  It’s a masochistic endeavor, physically and emotionally exhausting, and if the show fails, there’s no one to blame but yourself.  Perhaps it’s French performer Pierre Rigal’s past as a competitive athlete that has instilled in him the necessary discipline, physical endurance, and appetite for self-punishment to do a solo show.  Factor in his studies in mathematics and cinema, and the result is a virtuosic hour-long performance of meticulously calculated movement displayed in a mesmerizing visual environment.

Are You A Dancer?  Become a Member of Today!  Click Here to Join.The entirety of Press takes place within the confines of a box, a small room, a cubicle. Although obvious associations arise, the box serves more as a visual element and facilitator of movement than as a metaphor.  It’s brilliantly designed to clarify focus.  It’s the only space that’s lit.  Nothing exists outside the box, amplifying what goes on inside the box, and drawing us into his performance.

Rigal stands in a black suit, a model of perfection, like a Hugo Boss ad.  The ceiling is just above his head so that he can reach up and touch it to facilitate his spiraling turns.  His movements are controlled, precise, perfect.  Then for a moment he starts to go haywire like a robot malfunctioning.  It’s the first hint of distress.

Nihil Bordures’ electronic sound score creates an eerie mechanical atmosphere, like that of a boiler room.  There’s a feeling of uneasiness and impending danger.  With a thunderous sound, the ceiling presses downwards and stops right at the top of Rigal’s head.  At this point it is apparent that the ceiling will continue to "press" down in intervals until the inevitable crushing end.

Pierre Rigal in Press, Photography by Frédéric Stoll Each time the ceiling stops, it’s at a height precisely planned to correspond to the dimensions of Rigal’s body and offer acrobatic opportunities.  With it at head height, he stands on his head, feet on the ceiling, and hands in his pockets.  It’s a surreal image of a world turned up-side-down. Reoccurring clever moments like this infuse the hopeless situation with humor.

The second press stops at shoulder level and with his head bent forward, Rigal creates a convincing silhouette of a headless man.  He’s a magician with movement.  Later he runs frantically in one spot, slipping and getting nowhere, Fuerza Bruta style only without a treadmill, just a slippery floor and a mastery of movement.

The space is compressed further, leaving a horizontal gap, a claustrophobic sideways world. Then the ceiling retreats, suggesting that perhaps he’s not doomed to being crushed.  But how else could it end?  It finally descends completely, and like the lowering of the curtain, the show is over.

Pierre Rigal’s performance is riveting from start to finish.  His movement quality, and maintained intensity is awe inspiring.  It’s not until he comes forward for the bow that he relaxes and shows any sign of being human.  With heavy breath and dripping sweat, it’s like he just came through hell, and in a way, he did.

Pierre Rigal in "Press," Photography by Frédéric Stoll

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Official Dance Review by Julie Fotheringham
Performance: Pierre Rigal,
Venue: Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York City
Date: September 10, 2009

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