Thoughts trapped a giant paper box

The choreographer Mathilde Monnier spearheaded the movement in the late Eighties, bringing Franch contemporary dance across the Channel.
For this, her third visit, she has brought L’atelier en pièces for her troupe of four men and four women. It’s hour-long explorations of space, time and the moving body are extreme and, in the end, more interesting to contemplate than actually to watch.
As a whole, they don’t add up to much.
The dance takes place in a large, sealed white paper box with the audience seated in two rows around the periphery of the square. This brings the spectators closer to the dancers and when they walk around holding mirrors to tour faces, we became part of the action.
Because there is no front, we can choose where to look and who to look at, even if it means gazing at observers sitting opposite. There is nowhere to hide in this antiseptic crate.
Behind us is a lively offstage life. We see dancers walking past the cutout doors, carrying ghetto blasters and we hear them smashing glasses.
They filter like gases through the membrane-walls to glory in acts of madness.
A woman brushes slowly past our knees clutching the back of her neck. Another tiptoes across the room, killing time before it kills her. They are in their own world, isolated in their insanity.
Contact, we discover, is dangerous. When it is made, it is violent. They fling each other about, or cling like crabs and leeches. The body becomes an object, a thing to hurl about.
The movement, built in bursts, crashes, twitches or shoots limbs inches from our faces.
The most engaging sequence involves demystifying a champagne glass. It becomes a ball fixed between a man’s toes, or rubber suctioned to his lips. His manipulations – gripping it between his knees or rolling it with his feet – are virtuosic and it is not his glass but the ones outside that smash.
Two glass tot measures, placed upside down, are a pair of high heels and a set of binoculars when held to the eyes. Objects are what you make them.
Time is absolutely flat – there are no preparations no climaxes and no recoveries. There is no emotional content, no single viewpoint and no clear-cut meaning.
The whole exercise is one of extreme objectivity. Sounds more interesting in discussion than it is to watch.

Anne Sacks
Evening Standard - 04/06/1996