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…On Dancing with Robots | Robot: A Show by Blanca Li at BAM….

August 23, 2015
Spectacle: ROBOTS ! ChorŽgraphe: Blanca Li, Avec danseurs et robots, Dans le cadre du Festival Montpellier Danse, ScŽnographie: Pierre Attrait, Lieu: OpŽra ComŽdie, Montpellier, le 3/07/2013

Gaël Rougegrez performing with a NAO robot in “Robot: A Show by Blanca Li” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Photo: ©Laurent Philippe

The Spanish born choreographer Blanca Li does not live on the same plane of existence as the rest of us, she simple can’t…why you ask? Well, all you have to do is see Robot: A Show by Blanca Li and you will quickly come to the same concussion that I have. Robot: A Show by Blanca Li which had its premiere in 2013 at the Montpellier Dance Festival in France, had its American debut June 9-14, 2015 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House.

I was greatly disappointed at the number of empty seats on the night I attended. Well, too bad for them for they have no idea what they missed! This was one of the most brave and courageous works I have ever seen. (If this work does not a least get nominated for a Bessie Award then justice no longer exist…).

The 90 minute multimedia piece, that took three years of research before the rehearsal process even began, employed eight dancers that were living, breathing humans. (…Or at least I think so…) The work used humor and just plan zaniness to explore the relationships between robots and humanity as well as placed a focus on the continual automation of our society.

The choreography is a rather brilliant display of how kinetic energies flow through the human body. Moments of elegant choreographed phrases were intermingled with pedestrian movement that would proceed into a zany chorus of blue frocked crazy people.

Gaël Rougegrez performing with an NAO robot in “Robot: A Show by Blanca Li” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Photo: ©Laurent Philippe

Gaël Rougegrez performing with an NAO robot in “Robot: A Show by Blanca Li” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Photo: ©Laurent Philippe

The eight dancers were accompanied by a ten piece orchestra of unique sculptural as well as musical gadgetry. Imagine a sculpture somehow escaping the confines of the Museum of Modern Art and then appearing on a NYC subway platform playing a violin and there you have it. These gadgetries came in a multitude of styles, shape and color. There was a yellow and green boxy thing that played the drums as well a metallic humanesque object that played the violin and these were just two. The music and these imaginative creations were the joint product of the Japanese design team Maya Denki and composer Tao Gutierrez.

What stole the show were seven toddler sized NAO robots, (manufactured by the French company Aldebaran) that, through preprogramed, still tended towards the unpredictability of a toddler. Pointed in one direction yet suddenly deciding to go in another. They tended to fall but like toddlers  who often display a certain single-mindedness of purpose, would stand up on its on and continue on its chose path.

To say these little creations stole out hearts is an understatement. But the moment that seals the deal was when Gaël Rougegrez proceeds to teach the robot ballet steps and then performs a rather touching duet.

Robot: A Show by Blanca Li was one of the most wonderful original and exciting performances I have seen. I say bravo to everyone involved for a job well done.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Li has choreographed works for her company, as well as for film. She choreographed the flight attendant dance in “I’m So Excited” for Pedro Almodóvar as well runway shows and fashion events for designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Stella McCartney.


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