May 11, 2017 21:00
With Gala, Jérôme Bel continues his patient deconstruction of the institutional representation of dance, concerning himself less with destroying dogmas than with questioning what is absent, or fortuitously silent, and what is voluntarily forgotten. After having had mentally handicapped dancers perform (Disabled Theater), then members of the audience (Cour d’honneur) the choreographer again gives the stage to those who are generally kept off it, here a group of amateurs giving rein to their amateurism in the fullest sense of lovingly doing art. His fight against generalised exclusion from performing in a show takes here the form of a gala, a non professional collective celebration, sapping the authority of the idea of “dancing well” to the benefit of the pure pleasure of being your own producer.
Gala, which in the version presented in Florence is the result of a co-production by Fabbrica Europa and Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci Prato on the occasion of the exhibition 76’38’’ + ∞ curated by Antonia Alampi and dedicated to the work of the French choreographer, explores the physical and intellectual plasticity of these novice bodies by mobilising their desire to express themselves through dance and their capacity to embody, albeit minimally, a choreographic knowledge.
The piece explores an alternative path to the official channels of choreographic art. The choice of a gala form, poor relation of the professional show, thus gives the place of honour to the simplicity of execution of domestic dance, the sort you can do at home, without mastery or technique, thereby, it is assumed, sacrificing any strictly aesthetic interest. Arriving in their party clothes, picked out from their own wardrobes, the dancers take over that place of power, the stage, and in a sense do away with its authority. Shown in all its bareness, as in all Jérôme Bel’s shows, the stage becomes an empty space for these improvised interpreters to invest. In this neutralised place, the presentation of their intuitive bits of knowledge and their home-made movements illustrates the idea of an “equality of different sorts of intelligence”, a theory of Jacques Rancière in The Ignorant Master, but displaces it to the field of dance: just as there are not several different ways of being intelligent, Gala suggests a continuity between all the different ways of dancing. At one and the same time Jérôme Bel discredits the specialist’s reduction of the amateur to his supposed impotence, and definition of him as an imperfect and dull figure, in order to valorise his choreographic potential.