Festival d’Automne

Reviewer's Rating

Infini is not a simple dance performance. At the theatre of Nanterre-Amandiers, six artists count tirelessly while singing, running and dancing… You first wonder: is this going to continue for the whole show? Are they really going to count for an entire hour? But then you are quickly captivated by its disconcerting mood and caught up in the vertigo of infinity.
On the stage of this stripped theatre strewn with white flashing lights, we see the performers struggling with numbers: they count sheep; the ages of life; the dates from the year 0 to today and, most notably, the movements. Each age corresponds with a precise action, word or song – an abstract system is formed. But this is an abstraction that retains its intensity; it becomes more fascinating and oppressive simultaneously, especially when a dissonant music rises, loudly enough to make us uncomfortable but not to drown out the relentless listing of numbers. You are left with the sensation that infinity is personified by their bodies, as if they have no choice but to continue their count until exhaustion.
Despite this choreography being originally based on improvisation techniques, leading Boris Charmatz to consider that the whole show contains lots of embedded choreographies, it maintains a precise structure through its refined course of repetition. By the process of counting as the core of improvisation, the choreographer wanted then to ‘constitute a mental space’ as he explains in an interview with Gilles Amalvi for the festival d’automne: ‘The dancers who indicate the beat often count in their head. There, we say those counts aloud, we make the partition that we follow audible […]. It is as if we opened the cranium to see the counts at work…’
This experimental show reveals some impressive artists. Despite their common ballet background, they are not only dancers, but singers, comedians and athletes! Physically speaking, it is one of the most striking shows I have ever seen. I was particularly struck by the performance of Solène Wachter, who has such a beautiful voice and a lot of grace, and even more by Raphaëlle Delaunay, who brings humour and lightness to this disturbing show.
All of this definitely results in a very dense and organic show that covers many challenging subjects beyond its treatment of numbers. To mention but one, sexual desire is evoked with a nuanced humour and distance: at a one moment, the performers get down on all fours, and each of them puts his head under the bottom of the one placed in front of him, forming a rather peculiar single file.
This is, undoubtedly, a moving and troubling performance – impressive to say the least!