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Homme/Animal – Vendetta Mathea & Co. at the Baryshnikov Arts Center

April 13, 2012

Nicolas Garsault in "Homme/Animal Vendetta Mathea & Co.

The 105th performance of Homme/Animal by the Vendetta Mathea & Co. occurred Wednesday at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Homme/Animal examines the foundations of human nature, the study of which has always been part of  Vendetta Mathea’s choreography.

Homme/Animal is a spiritual journey, a journey of breath, and natural movement blended with the inner voices of the each of the dancers. Ms. Mathea, in a pre-performance talk stated that if a dancer were able “to make words into movement and then you have understanding”.

Link Berthomieux in "Homme/Animal" Vendetta Mathea & Co.

The performance begins with a darken stage, a pool of light slowly emerging and we see and hear Ms. Mathea speaking….

‘I’m blind, living in the dark.
Darkness is my education.
Education of family. I’m blind.
Education of religion. I’m blind.
Education of culture. I’m blind.
How can I know who I am,
If I believe I am who and what they want me to be.
Sacrificing,
Sacrificing myself until I am no more,
Sacrificing myself to find harmony around me.
How can I find harmony,
Living in a small part of my person, my universe ?
Feeling energy, my heart, my mind, my body, my soul,
This is how I find harmony around me,
Myself,
And love.
I feel. I see. I am an animal.’

We hear music and three dancers walk on stage like images from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The dancers are exquisite, two men, Link Berthomieux and Nicolas Garsault and one woman, Beatrice Debrabant, the men in red briefs and the woman in a red shift that goes mid-thigh.  Their performance is primal, a mixture of breath, movement and primitive vocalizations, that are sometimes heard as if commands, for they seem to communicate in a unique language of sound and body.

Link Berthomieux in "Homme/Animal Vendetta Mathea & Co.

Again and again we are treated to visualizations that are startling in there beauty, Mr. Berthomieux and Mr. Garsault catch Ms. Debrabant as she hurls herself into space, their positioning like moving statuary, graceful and full.

The dancers’ movements are slow, broken in moments of intense energy.  Ms. Mathea had stated that there were moments of improvisation in the piece, but if so it is not evident. The group work is tight, polished and perfectly timed.  The music is a varied  blend of the urban and sounds of nature that have a depth of feeling that speaks to the heart.

Throughout the work we see evidence of popular culture reflected with krumping, break-dancing and hip-hop, both subtle and obvious. Each dancer throughout the piece has repeated solos, each more daring then the last. Leaps in the air that fall to the floor then roll head over feet only to burst in to the air to perform another seemingly inconceivable feat.

"Homme/Animal" Vendetta Mathea & Co.

It is hard to take your eyes off Mr. Berthomieux, he seems capable to stand on his hands and bend his body in angles beyond the bounds of possibility. His hip-hop roots are evident in his body turns on the floor and  movements with a lock and pop action.

Mr. Garsault seems content to spend as much time in the air as he does having contact with the floor. His moves are so athletic and his crisp modern technique is at the forefront with each leap and turn. His gymnast background cannot be missed as he performs a Front Pike Somersault that had me asking myself “did he just do that?”

Ms. Debrabant is the much needed balance for so much testosterone being thrown around on stage. Her moves while no less athletic, possess such smooth femininity and grace she alone is the catalyst that gives reasoning to the men, allowing them to revel their tenderness, their compassion. She leaps into the arms of Mr. Berthomieux and he catches her and displays such tenderness of raw emotion, it is a moment suspended in time.  When he sits her down we witness a struggle between the two men, a primordial need for dominance over the other.

Beatrice Debrabant in "Homme/Animal" Vendetta Mathea & Co.

The three dancers, after an exhaustion performance, both physical and mental, lay piled together, Ms. Mathea stands over them, her arms encompassing them, so like an earth goddess watching over her children as the lights go dim, she says “and I love…”

Homme/Animal is a mirror that peers into the recesses of the human psyche and shows the still primal urges that govern human-kind. The one hour piece is a blend of anthropology and art for Ms. Mathea utilizes breath, vocalization and the human body to reflect and remind us we are not so far removed from our primordial beginnings as we think.

Vendetta Mathea is original from Detroit but has lived in France for the last 30 years. She attended the Juilliard School on full scholarship and has trained with Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theater of Harlem. She has studied and worked with such choreographers as Katherine Dunham, Louis Falco, Jennifer Muller and Paul Taylor. In 1972 Ms. Mathea joined the Walter Nicks Dance Company on a tour to France; returning there on tour in 1981 she met her husband Laurent and settled in Aurillac. Ms. Mathea has converted an abandoned factory into a 15000 square feet dance academy. La Manufacture, which has since become a hub in that area for dancers, teachers and choreographers.

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