18.06.2015. / 21:30h / ZPC
19.06.2015. / 21:30h / ZPC

Compagnie Thor (BE)

Echoing the ongoing citizen protest movements, and particularly the ones led by women, Thierry Smits creates with Nicola Leahey a powerful and obsessive choreography about insubordination and the necessity of revolt. A choreography which recalls the oppression of the body – the female body firstly -, the need to withstand, the breach which can be found and the freedom which has to be won. A female body, hampered by itself, step by step throws off the shackles which keep it imprisoned, and wins, after an obstinate struggle, its « freedom of movement.

In the solo performance Thierry Smits wrote for her, dancer Nicola Leahey delivers a true fight against herself. In a succession of brief sequences marked by a series of « black outs », her scantily dressed body gradually passes from gestures which jam the body and obstruct movement – as if they want to prove movement is impossible – to a relaxed and elastic body extremely present to itself and to us.

This struggle is all we are given to watch. The stage is empty, the lighting is rudimental. Within the limits of the 5 to 5 meter lit square, our gaze focuses entirely on the dancer, her power and strength, which at first may seem vainly spent and wasted, but which, as the piece unfolds, dominates the scope of its energy.

For power is the true issue at stake in ReVoLt, or re-Volt: unit of electromotive force and potential difference. The way the force is utilized in Leahey’s body, with its changing energy and voltage, indeed determines the choreographic structure, which relies on a deliberately restricted vocabulary of movement, and which makes ample use of repetition and combination. This minimalist character allows us to concentrate on the performer’s « voltage », passing from blind, almost masochistic impulse to martial arts-like dynamism.

Defiance and insubordination have often been important ingredients in Thierry Smits’ work. In ReVoLt, he makes them the core subject and delivers an obsessive solo on liberation and the necessity of rebellion.

Through Nicola Leahey’s body and movements, he delivers a choreographic metaphor for the oppression of the female body, for the constraints women are subject to even today, in our “progressive” society as well. But he also makes allusion, on a more universal level, to the yoke of conventions, the power-relations – be it personal, social or political - … and subsequently refers to the necessity of revolt to break free, to the breach which can be found and to the freedom which has to be won.

Photo: Hichem Dahes

Thierry Smits

For 25 years, Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits has asserted an artistic approach that is well off the beaten path in many respects, one that is frequently controversial and often goes against the tide. Alternating pure dance productions with more performative pieces, his work explores our relationship to the body – as an object of desire, pleasure and finiteness - which Smits considers, today more than ever, as a political space, « the only free territory left to us ».

Since the setting-up of his company in 1990, Thierry Smits has created over thirty dance performances. Among them Eros délétere (1991), Red Rubber Balls (1999), D’ORIENT (2005), V.-Nightmares (2007) and To the Ones I Love (2010). His creations, while characterized by an acute visual sense, oscillate between sober contemporary lines on the one hand, and pop, queer and often provocative aesthetics on the other hand. But, whatever the form, Thierry Smits’ performances constantly bear witness of a high technical rigour and gestural inventiveness, of an undisputable frankness and generosity.

Today, Thierry Smits is one of the mainstays of the Belgian dance scene and has, with his Compagnie Thor, garnered itself an international reputation touring extensively in and outside Belgium. His creations have been presented in Europe, America, the Middle-East and North- Africa, in venues and festivals including the Barbican in London, Trafó in Budapest, the Schriittmacher Festival in Aachen, the Opéra de Rouen, the BIPOD Festival in Beirut, the Teatro de la Ciudad in Mexico and the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.