We heart Jerome Bel. In thinking about all this “postdramatic” theater stuff, Bel fits nicely into this description. We’d like to offer a another word for dance, in response to the title of Roslyn Sulcas’ super sweet profile of Bel in The Times: Theater.
As y’all may recall, we reviewed Bel’s “Pitchet Klunchun and Myself” back in the Fall. This piece is a particularly nice candidate for postdramatic scrutiny.
First, the textual source is non-dramatic. Although the piece is presented to appear as if we were watching a candid interview between Bel and Klunchun, inside sources have said that it is, in fact, scripted, and that the performance is ostensibly the same each and every time.
Second, and more importantly, in terms of breaking out of conventional expectations of dance as drama, there is no attempt to codify style, or attitude. Although, in one sense, there is, in that Klunchun and Bel both seem to be at ease, or naturalistic on the stage. But this is merely a theatrical device that allows each to present alternative attitudes of performance within the overall theater pieace. Klunchun is able to perform in the high stylization of Thai classical dance, and Bel is able to present his portions of his “dance” works, which themselves resist stylization.
If we consider Bel a theater artist, rather than labeling him a choreographer, we might begin to have more profitable conversation about his work. When he says, as he does in the very first paragraph of Sulcas’ piece, “My job is to think about what can happen onstage,” he’s not skirting the issue. Quite to the contrary, he’s speaking as succinctly as possible about the theatrical. All theater has some element of choreography; you’re always going to be directing bodies through a space. It is the source of that direction and the manifestation of movement that will determine, ultimately, whether what we’re seeing is a dance, or a play, or, when all else fails, theater.