Posted Fri, Sept.5,2008

By Merilyn Jackson

At Thursday’s opening at the Arts Bank, Thai dancer/choreographer Pichet Klunchen and French dancer/choreographer Jérôme Bel faced each other across the stage. Klunchun, an adept of Khon – traditional Thai dance – lobbed answers to Bel’s incessant questions sincerely and succinctly, establishing an ever-more-ludicrous dialogue.

Bel assumed the role of a French nerd, droll and earnest, yet elegant and intelligent in this combination interview and lecture-demonstration, urging Klunchun to show the Khon technique. Klunchun performed what dancing there was, ultimately explaining that the movements represented architecture.

The architectural space between them represents the cultural gulf between their two cultures and dance philosophies. For despite Bel’s engagé protestations that there is no representation in contemporary art, (that would be, to paraphrase Bel, not “ici et maintenant” – here and now), everything represents something in this semi-farcical, semioticist wetdream.

At Klunchun’s behest, Bel demonstrates a section of his dance from The show must go on (next weekend at the Kimmel), standing almost perfectly still for several minutes à la John Cage’s 1952 4′ 33, in which the pianist simply sits for that length of time. Klunchun says he gets it. By the end of this cagey and Cagean show, you too get indeterminacy, phenomenology, structuralism and many other French “isms” you’ve been struggling with all these years.

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