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Martine Pisani sans, Lea Marshall, Ballet-Dance Magazine 2005.08.25

Loose-limbed and playful, the three men (Theo Kooijman, Laurent Pichaud, Olivier Schram) in sans bring a relaxed hilarity to choreographer Marine Pisani’s study of stage presence and, as she says, the nature of “’being’ in a performance space when play behaviours are favoured rather than psychology or theatricalisation”.

Rather than developing a narrative structure, Pisani simply sets her dancers to interact with each other and with the space: “play behaviours” dominate this performance, in fact, much to the audience’s delight. From the moment the men enter the stage space in street clothes and one breaks the stillness by covering his eyes with one hand while executing a comical series of hops and turns, we are hooked. Whether tossed off or carefully executed, every nuance of expression and gesture draws us in: a hand flung into the air; a head cocked sideways, inquisitively; a foot shaken loosely as if to detach it from the body; a dancer stopping to stand, stare at us, and groan.

Memorable moments included the three in a row downstage, gazing at the audience and slowly shifting their expressions through a series of emotions: nervousness, fear, defiance, peaking at rage and working back down to glum looks that kept the audience giggling. A staring contest between two dancers, with the third hovering nervously to catch the loser when he fell, and a rolling, twisting sequence on the floor that seemed a mad mix of contact improvisation and the Three Stooges also served to charm and intrigue. Despite their silliness, all three performers clearly worked with an easy grace, from a wide movement vocabulary.

When the dancers paused, spoke, and began their dance again, this time much faster, we could examine their movements in a different light—still enjoying the comedy, but understanding that what seemed light and almost improvised was in fact a carefully choreographed journey through the space: the space of the stage, the space between dancers, the space between the audience and the stage, and between our expectations and our actual experience.

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