With “Momo”, Ohad Naharin works on the notion of separation in the body

“Momo”, by Ohad Naharin, December 8, 2022.

Hush! Silence… Lights on, a commando of four men, bare-chested and barefoot in gray trousers, enters the empty stage of the Grande Halle de La Villette, in Paris, on May 25. The very festive hubbub, very summery, generated by one thousand one hundred spectators, ceases immediately. That is to say the force of impact of this funny squad, which draws with slow and suspended steps the perimeter of the stage. Their magnetism without ostentation will carry the public under a cape of spell which bears a name: Momo.

Momo? Who is this ? The title of the intriguing new show by Israeli star choreographer Ohad Naharin, created with dancers from the Batsheva Dance Company and the performer Ariel Cohen, programmed by Chaillot nomade at La Villette until June 3, is an enigma. Does it correspond to a diminutive or is it a clue underlining the oddity of this piece which swims between two shores, makes two faces shimmer?

On the right hand, the quartet of guys work squarely and identically; on the left hand, seven personalities in gleaming costumes explode one after the other in a myriad of solos. The configurations in unison of the first, however unusual they may be at times, compose a solid block which generates a stable adhesion. The fulgurances of the latter bristle the air with their skin-deep nervousness, their dislocated virtuosity, typical of Ohad Naharin. Calm against intranquility, univocity or ambiguity, mass or individual?

Order and disorder

Between these two apparently watertight camps, the gaze swings and the cohabitation pitches. Against the backdrop of a gray climbing wall, the graft between what could be sideshows takes a curious turn. On the music Landfall, composed by Laurie Anderson for Kronos Quartet around her experience of Hurricane Sandy (2012), momo unfolds an irregular scar tissue like a knit performed sometimes with thick wool, sometimes with fine yarn. These reliefs create permanent discomfort. And if the piece is paradoxically a common front, thanks in particular to the soundtrack, it works on the body separation, forces to navigate between images at the antipodes which question each other mutually.

The masculine pole turns out to be all the more compact as the identities of the seven other performers are more trembling, elusive, fluid, free. As if escaping from a party, the women wear ultra-short dresses and shiny shorts, in tune with the times. A performer in a second-skin swimsuit rushes wildly; another in a tutu multiplies the acrobatic exploits. The corps d’armee flirts with the corps de ballet, while the dancers cling to the barre to do the hanged pig and send off the procedure to follow. Order and disorder walk on slippers. And when immobility seizes these flammable bodies regularly staged by Ohad Naharin, it borders on petrification, and smells of death.

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