Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté like to auscultate the social beings we are, by scrutinizing internal cleavages and (in)voluntary gestures. In Histoire de l’Imposture they also take a look at dress codes. As the saying goes: The clothes make the man. Apparently, no matter the era, only nudity is neutral. It all begins under the sign of a whiteness that is skin deep, but the state of innocence is quickly lost.
The eviction from paradise (of dreams) takes place on an icy cloud, where flashes crackle like explosions. As they dress, 16th century costumes little by little replace the performers’ modern day attire. Once the flashback dressing is done, the waltz may commence, with seductive gestures and false smiles. A grotesque hesitation here, a monstrous discord there… Under a luminous projectile five self-portraits reveal that which separates them from what they appear to be.
It was so at court, as it is today in the street, at work or out dancing: one is constantly performing. Like the truth of the flesh that hides under its accoutrements, one wears such an assortment of accessory-like gestures to stand out. And often, one overacts and conforms to a repertory of gestures that are so stereotypical they lose their credibility. This is precisely what Sébastien Jacobs, Leslie Mannès, Frauke Mariën, Maxence Rey and Marco Torrice let us see in a chilly photographer’s studio; it is the place where such poses and postures are most overexposed and unnatural. The performers’ work includes a good dose of irony while both affirming and revealing the nuances of the quality and surface of identity.
But why the historical costumes? The play of abusive identities is present in every period. By looking at an engraving or a tableau from Elizabethan times, we have no trouble imagining all that transpired behind the ‘official’ gestures. And if their personalities started to dance, inspired by today’s rhythms? Would their postures become impostures? Or, inversely, would our imposture erase those represented on the canvas?
This is precisely what we get from video games and interactive animation, in which all usurpations become possible. The Brussels duo meld ancient costumes with the rave and techno rituals of today, the trance trend. Similar to the work of Trajal Harrell, in which, in another register, the choreography imagined bringing the dancers from Judson Church together with the popular dance trend of voguing.
Though Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté have led their research into the complex relation between the body, the conscience and the subconscious for nearly thirty years, we’ve rarely seen the performers ‘dance’ as much as they do here. The physical energy expended at the end is reminiscent of that which is liberated through tribal dances… Perhaps the sole state free of imposture?
Thomas Hahn, Danser Canal Historique / February 2014
The triumph of appearances
(…) « Repeat after me ». Simulations, pretence, illusions, the dress codes suggest an era betrayed by anachronisms. Hypocrisy, chuckles, mocking. “Be yourself”. Seduction attempts, couples form, assign each other roles, break up. Pomp leaks out of cheap flashy jewellery and embroidered satiny gloves. All is charm, luxury and delight …
The models are parading, prisoners of the role they’ve been assigned, constantly hesitating between appearing and being. The harmony cracks, someone tries to catch all the light, another is looking for a proof of his own existence in the eyes of the audience. The mere wish to distinguish oneself, to stand out from the crowd, to liberate oneself from the movement is wiped out by imitation, correction or standardisation. Under the social pressure, the black sheep gets back into line, sacrifices its personality to conform. Then the rhythm accelerates and frees the bodies of the tensions that tear them up. They exult, dive into the savagery of a joyous and emancipating saraband.
Catwalk, flashes and poses, Histoire de l’imposture clearly reminds us of a photoshoot and, by extension, the world of publicity and fashion magazines, symbols of a sham or downright mendacious society. The dancers’ performance (…), the directing, the lights, the music by Thomas Turine give the piece power and elegance and make it a reference that goes through the years without losing any of its lustre.
Didier Béclard, Demandez le programme / May 2021