Anjelin Preljocaj’s “La Fresque” is inspired by medieval Chinese tale “The Painting on the Wall”. Photo/JeanClaude Carbonne
Anjelin Preljocaj’s “La Fresque” is inspired by medieval Chinese tale “The Painting on the Wall”. Photo/JeanClaude Carbonne

One roof, two contemporary performance experiences

Art March 05, 2018 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation
Paris, France

6,149 Viewed

The charming Theatre National de la Danse Chaillot near the Eiffel Tower offers a year-round programme

UNLIKE THEIR German counterparts, most theatre productions in the French capital do not have English surtitles. Equally, when there’s a foreign production from a non-English speaking country, the surtitles are in French. As a result, non-French speaking performance-loving visitors have limited choices and those include the classic tourist shows like “Moulin Rouge” and “Crazy Horse” and hit comedies like “How to Become Parisian in One Hour” even though the poster for the show boasts “100% English”. Because of this, I have been watching more dance than theatre performances during my visits to the City of Light and before each visit I always check the programme of Theatre de la Ville and Centre National de la Danse (CND).

Anjelin Preljocaj’s “La Fresque” is inspired by medieval Chinese tale “The Painting on the Wall”.Photo/JeanClaude Carbonne

An invitation from a colleague I met at a dance festival in Hong Kong took me to the Theatre National de la Danse Chaillot, easily accessible from Trocadero station. 

In a building that went up during the same period as the Eiffel Tower as part of the world expo as the 1800s gave way to the 1900s, it gives us the aura of a museum. With a high-ceilinged hallway and stairways adorned with visual arts works, plus historic escalators, the theatre’s cafe also provides one of the best and unobstructed views of Paris’s most iconic landmark. 

But we should never judge a book by its cover and, in this case, inner cover. Chaillot is all about contemporary performance. And although dance, from around the globe, takes centre-stage, with its natural relation to other genres make categorisation increasingly difficult, theatre and music have some presence as well.

Recently opened after its renovation is Salle Fermin Gemier, a large and fully flexible black box playhouse. 

Photo/JeanClaude Carbonne

Here Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues presented “Pindorama” which provided a unique dance-going experience – with no seats for the audience, except for physically challenged members who really need one. It was like visiting a visual arts exhibition with dancers as moving sculptures and while it was a group experience, we could always choose our favourite angle from which to appreciate this work of art.

The following evening I returned to watch Anjelin Preljocaj’s new work “La Fresque” at Salle Jean Vilar, an even larger adjustable proscenium playhouse, and it was a totally different experience.

Dancers are like moving sculptures in Lia Rodrigues’ “Pindorama”.Photo/ Sammi Landweer

Inspired by medieval Chinese tale “The Painting on the Wall”, or “The Painted Wall”, from the collection, “Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio” by Pu Songling, the work looked and felt more contemporary with Preljocaj’s choreography, well accompanied by Nicolas Godin’s music and fitted right into the holiday spirit, very different from other Preljocaj works we’ve watched here in Thailand. 

And now I can fill up most of my Paris evenings with contemporary performances Parisians are watching without having to take any French language classes. 

The writer wishes to thank Theatre National de la Danse Chaillot’s Jarmo Juha Penttila for all kind assistance.

What's on Now

Marc Laine’s “Hunter”, described as “an utterly pop modern-day tale about desire” with cinema fastastique is in Salle Fermin Gemier from Wednesday to March 16. In French with English surtitles.

San Francisco-based Alonzo King Lines Ballet’s “The Propelled Heart”, also featuring live singing by Lisa Fischer, is in Salle Jean Vilar from Friday to March 16.

Find out more at (in French and English).