O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!

The Ballet Preljocaj, the contemporary dance troupe from Aix en Provence, gave a presentation today of their next season. I had sprained my ankle again and was in need of someone to give me a ride to Aix, so my mother and I stopped at their theatre on the way.

I had never been inside the Pavillon Noir, the modern building in which the troupe is based. It was made a few years ago by an absolutely dreadful architect, who had for this once an interesting inspiration, mixing panes of grey glass in pillars of black concrete. The result is not as grim as could be imagined. Ivy crawls on the surface, and the dark mass seems to soar against the bulk of light limestone of the opera nearby. I would not say that the inside of the theatre fit my description of a pleasing place, and that was probably not intended (unless there is someone in the world who enjoys the impression of being trapped in the basement of a crumbling warehouse), but the dance soon diverted my attention.

It was only five minutes, and there was nothing elaborate about the choreography. There was something weirdly entrancing in the energy and bright expressions of the dancers, and in the middle of it I found myself thinking of the dialogue between King Richard III and Lady Anne:

"O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!"
"O wonderful, when angels are so angry."

I was in the middle of deciding on buying a membership for the next season, when the dance stopped and Angelin Preljocaj, the choreographer, came forward for a general explanation of what his new creation was going to be like. It turned out he was working with Russian dancers from the Bolchoi, and had had deep musings on Russian and French history:

"There was a moment, in both of those countries, where a revolution changed the course of the world… The French Revolution in the 1790’s…" (I doubt this was news for anyone present, but it appeared to give him confidence) "…and the Russian Revolution, in the 17… 1970… 1917’s!" he finished with a bright laugh and a terrible stutter (he did need the extra confidence after all)

"So," he went on. "Those great historical moments started to spur my inspiration. Moments when people sought to erase the past, to build a brand new world, to revolve, because, weeeell, that’s the meaning of Revolution… Not just to destroy, but to turn the world around…" Oh well. If we must… "But then I thought, isn’t is a bit silly to do something on the French and Russian revolutions again?"

I smiled, and not just inwardly (because he was not watching me anyway). Thanks God.

"So then I started to think about St John’s Book of Apocalypse!"


"Because like the Revolution, the Apocalypse is not a complete destruction of the world, in spite of the popular image! It’s an unveiling of a hidden truth…" Some more stutter followed on the etymology of Apocalypse. It would have taken much more confidence for him to sound pedantic. He actually seemed likeable enough, and I ended up feeling bad about myself for having thought all this time that his project on linking Revolution with Apocalypse would have sounded so much better without the thousands of people who had the idea before him. 

As we were going out, wondering why nine choreographers out of ten still present their project as an exploration of the relationships to the Body, the Other, Space, Tradition, Interculturality (what is dance going to be about? No bodies doing nothing in no space and not relating to other dancers?), I suddenly though again of the quote about devils, angels, truth and anger. It had come to my mind before even hearing about Apocalypse. 

Only three possible conclusions:

This guy was a pedantic nerd lost in his world and I’m even worse than him with my dubious references.

Or he’s really, really good.

Or Shakespeare and St John have nothing to do with each other beside a vague homonymy of quotes.

Either way, I’m going to check this out.


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