Cabo Verdean choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas is back at Festival TransAmériques for the second year in a row, this time with De marfim e carne – as estátuas também sofrem. Last year, I was a fan of Paraíso, with its singular world created through the strict adherence of the dancers to their character-driven mode of performance and its potential for a feminist reading. Maybe it’s auteur theory’s fault, but now I’m wondering if maybe I was wrong last year…
The show relies on excess (seven performers are onstage for the entire eighty minutes) but, rather than helping in making a particular environment emerge, this merely leads to distraction. Our eyes travel from one to another, noticing that some are merely moving not to be still during the main action and that the three cymbal players look the way I do when I hang out at a bar just hoping someone will take me home so I can get the fuck out of there. These musicians become a too easily accessible exit.
At the FTA back in 2008, I’d accused Marie Chouinard’s obnoxious Orphée et Eurydice of suffering from Middle Child Syndrome. I could say the same of De marfim e carne, which is funny because Freitas cites the myth of Orpheus as an inspiration in the program. Perhaps the artistically gifted Orpheus is ironically performance kryptonite. Maybe those who killed him could hear his so-called divine music after all.
During the show, I also thought about Nicolas Cantin. Last week, I saw his Philippines at the OFFTA. Cantin is definitely not for everyone, but artistically I admire his work, which seems perpetually concerned with figuring out what’s the least that one can do on a stage. I sometimes find myself wishing some shows, De marfim e carne being a perfect example, were doing less.
With its constant “let me entertain you” attitude, it sometimes seems like the show is striving to be a critique of the vacuity of entertainment culture. 1) Yes. 2) And…? 3) Where’s the critique? Because, with its lack of bite, De marfim e carne doesn’t seem to critique so much as to be complacent about the vapidity of entertainment. If anything, it capitalizes on it. It is the artistic equivalent of overconsumption.
Yet, when the dancers come back for an encore, i.e. the worst concert ritual, it seems like they must know they’re acting like the worst. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
June 3 & 4 at 8pm
Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle
Tickets: 39$ / 30 years old and under: 33$