© Mikha Wajnrych
© Fabienne Cresens
Cie Mossoux-Bonté

Press

Here they are, lying prone or with their faces submerged in a pool of opaque blackness, their bodies constrained and contracted. Then, they move in jerks, from continuous gestures to fractures. They flood themselves, confronting the water of birth, as well as the water of drowning. They engage in a debate with the elements, gradually freeing themselves from a representation of femininity that is as idealised as it is victimising and morbid. By questioning the image of Ophelia and its reflections through time, the new work by Cie Mossoux-Bonté explodes the shackles in a veritable tidal wave. Aesthetic. Profound. Salutary.

Ever since Shakespeare and, later on, the Pre-Raphaelite paintings by John Everett Millais, Ophelia appears to be a fettered icon imprisoned between her perfect youth, as diaphanous as it is lascivious, her romantic madness and an indifferent abandonment of existence. A crystallised image of beauty? An eternal feminine? Isn’t there something malignant here to exorcise?

Each embodying a different version of Ophelia, modern or past, the four dancers, standing at the edge of the pool, try to strike a pose. But here they are, unbalanced, fragile and broken, struggling against the currents and walls of invisible and contradictory forces. In a disorderly profusion, their singular movements may well emerge and intersect, but they find it impossible to extract themselves from the liquid that draws them towards their death and that encloses their beauty. Only their fingertips will rise above the surface, before they let themselves sink in from exhaustion again. Willingly?

A brief moment of darkness and they are back on stage, ferocious, like witches, Medusas or the queens of an outlet sabbath to provoke the reflections of this cloistered image, deploying them infinitely in a mysterious and profane beauty. A nascent force to finally defy the waves and regain control.

In addition to these powerful metaphors, the other asset of the production lies in its aesthetics, magnified by the non-cinematographic use of the film medium. Together with director Sylvain Dufayard, the company constantly went back and forth from choreographic creation to image-making, prolonging the action, sometimes forcing movement, shifts and poetics. Dance, its chromaticism and evocative projections, combined with Thomas Turine's surprising music, merge to construct a total organic language with a dynamic, impactful visual and sensory perspective. At times, the impression of immersion suffocates the spectator. Sometimes, the sheer poetry is enough to breathe life back into them.

Ophelia-s is black magic!

Mixing dreaminess and claustrophobia, combining all the arts in a single impetus, the company once again pushes back the boundaries of contemporary dance to deliver an exercise of intoxicating and unusual beauty. These rebellious Ophelia join forces to become an untamed geyser, breaking codes and defying death foretold. A powerful feminine freedom radiates. A courageous moment of deliverance that paves the way for reinvented forms of being. There is so much at issue.

Jean-Jacques Goffinon / November 2023

 

In a dark, twilight atmosphere, four young women appear on stage. Behind them, a large screen shows images of them moving underwater throughout the performance, between drowning and diving into the heart of the abyss (…).

Upstage, a pool of water around which the four performers will evolve, sometimes immersing themselves in at their peril. But if Ophelia is at the centre of the subject, it is of course to broaden it. The four young women will take on the most diverse appearances: executive women in a strict suits, an evanescent beauty with hair strewn with flowers, wild children who look as if they are ready to go to the beach... The worlds intersect and merge, evoking water games as much as death lurking or the simple fear of water.

Remarkably performed by Anne-Cécile Chane-Tune, Colline Libon, Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe, Ophelia-s avoids any linear narrative or systematic recreation of the paintings and events that inspired it. Instead, Thomas Turine's original music, Johan Daenen's set design and Patrick Bonté's lighting all contribute to creating a heavy, mysterious atmosphere, punctuated from time to time by a hint of humour. The result is a spellbinding universe that raises as many interpretations as it does questions.

Jean-Marie Wynants, Le Soir / November 2023

 

Ophelia, the beautiful drowned woman, has taken to the stage to confront her myth. For centuries, Ophelia has intrigued and enthralled men to the point of imposing her story on women. Are all women potential Ophelias? Forced to endure the injunction to combine weakness and beauty in order to exist? (...) Ophelia-s plunges into the abysses of this representation, only to be frantically revolted by it.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare made Ophelia the young fiancée of a prince. A man in love who ultimately abandons his betrothed. And when Hamlet mistakenly kills the young girl's father, she falls into despair and madness and commits the irreparable : suicide by drowning. This scene, although only hinted at in Shakespeare's play, would unleash passions in the centuries that followed. Particularly in the 19th century during the Romantic period. Images of the drowned beauty proliferated. The young girl was idealised, placed in total harmony with nature, completely obscuring the morbid aspect of her suicide. This mode of representation trapped Ophelia in an ideal of femininity full of clichés. The passivity imposed on her would become a deeply rooted criterion of desire. Only the weak and beautiful woman will find her place in society.

It is this vision, this conception of the narrative, that Ophelia-s examines. On stage, four women investigate the death of the young woman, the beautiful drowned woman who, since Shakespeare, has been the focus of so many fantasies. The piece presents four versions of Ophelia, four evolutions of the image projected through time upon this idealised character. On stage, the disarticulated bodies initially appear lifeless, drowned in a set that does nothing to disguise the morbidity of the act. Finally, these bodies rise up and begin a frenetic dance. A reappropriation of bodies that for too long have been confined to a male interpretation (...).

Louis Thiébaut, RTBF.be / November 2023

 

Upstage is a pool of water around (and in) which four dancers gravitate, sometimes alone, sometimes together. Like dolls, their inert bodies are moved by invisible forces that are trying to push them (back) into the water, towards death. We witness their struggle against these morbid impulses. At the back of the stage, our eyes are lulled by moving images projected onto a screen. These deep-coloured images show what is happening underwater: the women float and sway in slow motion, while the dancers evolve above the surface. The two worlds mirror each other (...). The costumes allow us to differentiate not only the characters but also the eras. At certain moments, the dancers wear the same outfit and perform similar movements, so much so that they seem to be one and the same person, whom we guess to be Ophelia. The mirror effect is twofold. Our eyes are almost hypnotised by this ballet that is as aesthetic as it is gloomy. All the choreography and stage set-up give the curious impression of being able to touch the fabrics with your fingertips and feel the water in which the characters are drowning (...).

Laura Lamfalussy, Karoo / December 2023