Arab Today, arab today cédric andrieux linbury studio
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Cédric Andrieux, Linbury Studio

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Arab Today, arab today Cédric Andrieux, Linbury Studio

London - Arabstoday

Dancers, however expressive, don’t generally have a voice. They are so skilled in making the impossible look normal, that we don’t really understand the physical strain and emotional discipline that lies behind that act. One of the many pleasures of this solo by choreographer Jérôme Bel for his French compatriot Cédric Andrieux is that it puts the personality of the dancer centre stage and lifts the curtain on the magic act. It’s part of a series, with different dancers, but Andrieux’s self-deprecating nature and his deadpan delivery are particularly appealing. He shuffles on, in track suit bottoms and hoodie, carrying a large tote bag and proceeds to explain that he fell in love with contemporary dance at a very young age - inspired by his mother’s egalitarian beliefs and by the title sequence to Fame - but was never a naturally gifted dancer. He shows us his first solo, the pose he used as an artist’s model, and he tells us the stories of his life, his loves, his frustrations. In particular, he describes the experience of auditioning for and then working with Merce Cunningham. But the eight years he spends with his world-famous troupe are not the triumphant career highlight you might expect; they bring moments of clarity and exhilaration, but they also bring a sense of failure and “humiliation” as he searches for a perfection that he feels he never can find. Wonderfully, he reveals those emotions through movement as well as through words, demonstrating the punishing routine of a class where Cunningham prescribed the same series of warm up exercises every day. He explains the Zen-like rationale of such repetition and adds: “For me it was totally depressing.” Then he shows those movements, describing the exact place where he became “fucking bored” his mind wandering to what was in the fridge, while at the same time shaping his body into extraordinary, controlled shapes. He exhibits the “slow, laborious” process by which Cunningham made works, puts on one of his unflattering unitards - “like a pair of tights for the whole body” - describes his grandmother’s reaction to John Cage’s music - “it’s unbearable. You have to talk to Merce about it” - and then launches into punishingly difficult solos from Biped and Suite for 5. In the process, he makes you vividly understand how hard it was for a gauche 22-year-old to work with a master of dance who believed that it was only when movement was absolutely at the edge of the possible that it became interesting - but at the same time see what a fine exponent of that style he was. Andrieux changes persona as he dances, he becomes something else, and so it is possible also to witness the pleasure and liberation he found when he left Cunningham’s company and discovered different styles and techniques. Demonstrating Bel’s own The Show Must Go On, he suddenly smiles for the first time - and you see the man behind the dancer. Who’d have thought an illustrated lecture could be so riveting?

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