"Pas de Deux"
Baryshnikov Art Center
New York, NY
October 10, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
The title tells the story. Together Raimund Hoghe and Takashi Ueno spent two hours--no intermission--investigating the nature of duality whether of people, fingers, or swathes of cloth, both formally and emotionally. Hoghe, once a dramaturge for Pina Bausch, revealed his methods early on. As the lights came up on the black box theater, Ueno, dressed in black, materialized out of the darkness at the front of the stage. He walked slowly (slow was big all night with more than a hint of Butoh in the air) around the perimeter, leaving behind a trail of water, like raindrops on a sidewalk. Hoghe materialized from the opposite side of the stage (slowly) carrying a parasol. They intersected at a corner of the stage, sharing the protection of the umbrella. Eventually, the parasol seemed to float alone in mid-air, magically upending the laws of physics. Combining props and resonance, here complicity and tenderness, Hoghe showed the human animal at its best.
Compare this to the duet set to "A quoi ça sert l'amour" a rollicking duet about the worth of falling in love, sung by Edith Piaf and Théo Sarapo (the soundtrack of "Pas de Deux" is nothing if not eclectic). Hoghe and Ueno had no problem with the worth of love; they were giddy with it, smiling for the only time all night, and riding the music like attractions at an amusement park. But the sweetness and light gradually soured and darkened. Hoghe, at center stage, seemed all adoration as he watched Ueno tear around in a circle of big jumps. Then the worm turned. He became the ring master putting his star act through its paces to the point of exhaustion: love as domination, fuelled by manipulation, the human animal at its most deceitful.
The growing sense that Ueno was being used, not only here but throughout the evening, left an unpleasant aftertaste. Hoghe, his spine malformed, can’t execute the virtuoso material he choreographs, so someone else must, but whenever the two were together, Ueno was Galatea to Hoghe’s Pygmalion. Ueno is more than able to hold the stage on his own, suddenly androgynous as tango rhythms took over his body, or moving from a balance on one foot, arms outstretched like a raptor on the hunt, to a skater’s sit spin with mesmerizing control, concentration and quiet. Not content to take advantage of his colleague, Hoghe also stuck it to his audience. Late in the evening, with patience on the wane, we were treated to a long screed on atomic disasters in general and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in particular. Perhaps this was part of a tribute to Ueno’s homeland. If so, that tribute should have been limited to use of obi-like textiles and geta.
"Pas de Deux" suffered from an increasingly flaccid structure, to which the atomic episode contributed. The final half hour was spent repeating what we’d seen before: duets performed by the dancers’ fingers, more fabric. For a piece which explicitly links itself to the pas de deux as the epitome, the summit, of 19th century classical theatrical dancing, the distance between intent and realization is a great disappointment.