Jerome Bel – Cedric Andrieux
posted by: Seth Nehil
A man stands alone on a well-lit stage and talks quietly and slowly about his history with dance. In doing so, he gives us both his own story and a small history of modern dance ideas. This is a continuation of Bel’s conception of dance as a demonstration, a lecture, a story, and a bare act of communication. Humanness is primary in this work – a person before us, rather than a dancer. The microphone amplifies every breath, gasp and swallow, and does a lot to create a kind of intimacy with saliva. It stays on during the moments of dance, connecting us with the effort rather than hiding it behind music and elegance. Unhurriedly, Andrieux waits to regain his breath after dancing. Things take as long as they take.
The exceedingly quiet, sincere delivery seems to tickle the audience and provokes much laughter at normally unfunny statements. The care of Andrieux’s speech proposes a kind of honesty, suggests that nothing will be held back or romanticized. The simplicity of the plain, frontal address and white stage lights tells us that we can trust the authenticity of the character “Cedric Andrieux” – that this person on the stage overlaps with the person we might meet in the green room or on the street. At the same time, the careful presentation and the stripping away of convention has an effect of heightening attention, allowing small things to become significant.
Andrieux’s humble admission of struggle with his self-image and the demands of dance practice allow us to struggle with being an audience. As he says about watching the Cunningham company – “All the rules for watching dance seemed to be gone.” Just as the dancers can never be perfect, our attention can never be perfect… and that is perfect.
It is this coexistence of theater and non-theater that I find so interesting in Bel’s work. The way plain human life and struggle becomes engaging as theater, but also asks us to consider the performance of identity offstage. The more layers Bel peels away, the more we can notice.