Black Pulp, which launched Alliance Francaise Danse Dialogues festival was dramatic, meaningful, moving and unique

Alliance Française de Bangalore launched their Danse Dialogues festival with Black Pulp, an hour long dance recital staged at Ranga Shankara. The fortnight long festival is meant to showcase the best of contemporary dance as well as the commonalities in French and Indian styles. Conceptualized and directed by French choreographer, dancer and composer Martin Harriague, Black Pulp was originally conceived for four dancers but has been adapted for two. With no narration, dialogue or explicit storyline, the performance utilized dance, music and beat poetry to trace the tale of a couple.

High drama was evidently the call of the hour as audience members trooped into a theatre clouded with white fog. The opening scene heightened the effect, featuring a duo on a stripped down version of the Ranga Shankara stage with ceiling to floor length black curtains and harsh spotlights. The minimal sets and absence of any props focused all attention on the lead pair, whose performance as dancers was uniformly excellent. The appropriation of classical ballet moves for a contemporary dance piece was inspiring with the modified pirouettes et al.

The piece also borrowed from ballet the use of the grand pas de deux, a nineteenth century invention which constitutes the climax of a performance or scene. The pinnacle of Black Pulp was everything that the performance had promised to be: dramatic, meaningful, moving and unique. It featured splendid solos by the pair, especially the emotionally raw one of the female dancer. In contrast, the denouement was graceful in its transition from riveting theatre to pastoral innocence, with the performance ending as the dancers transitioned from black costumes to pastel outfits and lay idyllically on stage.

However, as evocative as the climax was, the piece also struggled to communicate to its audience. Contemporary dance can be ambiguous and abstruse. However, for a performance that is part of a festival termed Danse Dialogues, it should have made more of an effort.

With American poet Derrick Brown’s beat poem being recited in spurts and bursts, audience members were left to decipher the piece largely on their own. The occasionally shrill music and incongruent female recitation didn’t help matters.

However, there is always an argument to be made to experience something without completely decoding it; and Black Pulp couldn’t have made a better case for this. Brown’s verse, sparing as it is, juxtaposes beautifully with the dance duet, and the evolving interpersonal dynamics of the dancers is a treat to behold.

Futuristic and dark, the performance can be rather uninviting. However, for those ‘trapped in a latex world’, Black Pulp could be just the nudge needed to move one.