movement posited as metaphysical questions is a hallmark of Pierre Rigal’s
solos. When the dancer/choreographer made his local debut two years ago at the
Baryshnikov Arts Center, he painstakingly charted the transition from
horizontal to vertical movement. It was like a condensed history of evolution,
with a coda that looked toward the future, as video effects turned his body
into a living hologram.
Now he’s returning with Press, an hour-long solo that has him
confined within a box-like space with a ceiling that gradually lowers. With a
folding chair and a snaking, almost accusatory lamp as his only companions,
Rigal seems to be trapped in the world’s most ominous office cubicle.
Increasingly forced to limit his movement to sideways or contorted shapes, he
is the ultimate creature at the mercy of his environment.
The tiny size of the stage
at London’s Gate Theater, which commissioned Press last year, inspired Rigal to create his scenario. He chose
his title because it is both a noun and a verb. He appears trapped within a
press, but the hour-long solo also evokes the idea of pressure, compression and
repression—and of a generally hostile, unforgiving environment. “Press is like a nightmare. It can be a
little bit dark, and stressful,” Rigal recently said by phone from France. “The
space getting smaller is a very physical problem, but it can also be a more
mental, social or political problem. This character that I am portraying is
trying to adapt himself to the new situation that the space is giving to him.
Human beings can live in very small places, in some very extreme situations.
The capacity of human beings is very big.”
For someone who once
achieved considerable success as a competitive runner and hurdler, Rigal has
certainly gone in the opposite direction; where he once strode freely through
open space he now navigates confined areas with incremental precision. “When we
run, we have the freedom of all the space. This is the opposite, there is no
space. I had to work on a very precise thing, find ideas within these
constraints. It’s strange to say, but it’s in the constraints that we can find
a lot of freedom.”
Rigal worked in close
collaboration with Nihil Bordures, who composed the subtly unnerving sound
score, and Frédéric Stoll, who was responsible for set and lighting design.
“There is a very close association between the movement and the lighting and
the sound. All of these elements have to be very interactive. We had to work
very closely together.”
Since its premiere on the
tiny Gate stage, Rigal has been performing Press
in theaters all over the world. He has taken it to Australia, Japan, Thailand,
as well as France, Spain and Belgium, and it had a return London engagement in
May of this year. He notes that the English and Australian audiences found more
occasions for laughter within the solo’s rigorous intensity. “The first time I
performed it in London, I was quite surprised by this reaction, but I loved it.
I will curious to see if in the U.S. it will inspire the same reaction.”
Sept. 10-12, Baryshnikov
Arts Center, 450 W. 37 St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 212-868-4444 or www.smarttix.com;
Thurs. & Fri. 8, Sat. 2 & 8, $20.