On Saturday, October 27, the Cultural Expressions portion of France-Atlanta 2012 celebrated the end of Elevate, the cultural program that placed temporary art installations in downtown, with a street dance in downtown Atlanta. After all, what is more fleeting than dance?! It was an ending, but also the start of three days of dance events as part of the festival.
The eight French hip hop dancers of Compagnie Derniere Minute, under the direction of Pierre Rigal, gathered in the closed-off block of 100 Broad Street just before 5:00 pm. They interacted with the small audience of local residents, arts patrons, a children’s birthday party, food trucks, and other curious passers-by, sometimes dancing for a moment, sometimes not. The audience moved into the street with them, and some of the dancers began working with the children to create interactive dance on the spot. Two of the men began leading the audience down the block in a Pied Piper inspired game of Follow the Leader. At the end of the block, against the barricades, the dancers paused, leading the disappointed audience to believe it was all over.
Enter: a striped bicycle with speakers strapped to the handlebars, music pulsing. Two dancers ran across the street and began to improvise on a square of concrete and a manhole cover, using a carefully timed sequence that moved from one spot to the next. Soon all eight performers were in the improvised dance, pausing at four distinct points to improvise movement grounded in modern dance but expressed in the hip hop vocabulary.
This was followed by a complex, interwoven pattern of movement on the street corner and then a Contra Dance in the street, with the dancers meeting a separating over and
over. From then on, the bicycle became a part of the dance, sometimes leading the dancers, sometimes following them, sometimes chasing them back up the block. The dancers dangled from handrails,
hid behind walls, hung from fences, flirted with the food trucks and their operators, and intermingled with the audience, some of whom joined the dance. At one point the dancers coerced the audience to one side of a metal wall forming a shelter, then disappeared behind the wall, only to reappear one by one in a series of improvised hip hop moves. The dance was clearly a mixture of created dance and improvisation based on the location and its landmarks.
My favorite portion closed the event; it involved all eight dancers and the wall of a building, where the dancers pressed against the wall of a building, moved along it, climbed it, and finally created pyramids upon it.
The dancers seemed to range in age from the early twenties to the forties. They were a diverse group, physically, technically, and in their personalities.Some were internally focused, others played charmingly to and with the audience. The dancers were irrepressible, energetic, whimsical, and occasionally breathtaking.
When it was over, the eight dancers, both men and women, spoke with the audience, devoting special attention to the children.
The great part for me, because I am short, is that there was a small audience and everyone could see well. But that is very sad,
because it was a delightful event that should have been much better attended. Perhaps it was the minimal publicity, at least in the areas outside Downtown Atlanta. Perhaps it was the cold front coming in, or the hour, or the fact that Broad Street is hard to find for those of us who travel IP (inside the perimeter) infrequently (my Google Map and my GPS both directed me incorrectly and I almost missed the event. I know I will be watching impatiently for France-Atlanta 2013, and you should, too.Meanwhile, Compagnie Derniere Minute will perform Sunday, October 28, at the Rialto Theatre on Georgia State University’s campus, and director Pierre Rigal will present a one-man show Monday evening at The Goat Farm Arts Center.
For more information, visit www.france-atlanta.org.