Risque (2003) by Paul-André Fortier

RISQUE is a very dynamic dance which exploits the bounty of youthful energy. It is my favourite piece among all the modern dances that I have seen so far. Perhaps this is because it is the only “bright” and happy modern piece among them. It made me change my mind on the conclusion that I arrived at, that modern dance is somewhat depressing.

Paul-André Fortier

There are many factors that I like about this piece— the movements, the expression, the lighting, the music, just to name a few. To start with, the choreographer, Paul-Andre Fortier created this dance for young people my age. This enables me to relate to the dance right from the beginning. The piece is aptly called RISQUE for I, sitting on the edge of my seat, could almost feel that the dancers were taking chances throughout the 50-minute-performace. The space between the dancers was unusually close; at some point, it appeared as if they were about to clash into one another, only to miss by that very few inches. I am certain that I was not alone in fluctuating between tensing and heaving sighs of relief while watching the piece. Consequently, the dancers did a marvellous job in being aware and alert about one another’s position. They explored movements which were off balance as well—one that was recurrent throughout is the falling-and-running-back-on-a-slanting-angle movement. Gravity was on the verge of pulling them onto the ground, only to be counteracted by the dancers’ momentum of travelling backwards in the nick of time.

The actions in RISQUE were very powerful and dynamic, bringing out the vibrancy of youth. There were a substantial amount of hurling the limbs around; at times, the throwing would seem rather random and spontaneous. Paul-Andre Fortier incorporated a lot of everyday movements into the dance—running, walking, squatting and most interestingly, looking. I particularly like the eye contact that the dancers established with the audience for a great deal of the piece. Their eye contact was calm yet detached, just like the nature of juvenility: curious yet not committed.

I find it mesmerising how Fortier explored the integration of human movements through his dance. There was one particular scene where one of the female dancers, after taking off her outer blouse, accentuated the movement of her scapula by rotating her shoulder in an odd pattern. I could not take my eyes off her animated scapula which was jutting and caving in, as if possessed. Nevertheless, putting aside the intriguing effect, perhaps Fortier was attempting to demonstrate the connection of our bone structure and illustrate how the articulation of the joints and muscles would initiate movement in our bodies.

The gestures that Fortier explored in RISQUE were everyday-like yet somehow intricate. Take the gestures of the hand for example, it seemed like the dancers were executing normal daily tasks; however, the actions would come across as involuntary at times, as if the hands have gone out of control. On the other hand, Fortier frequently used contact improvisation in the dance movements. One dancer would tap or hit the other to initiate movement in him or her. It struck me that they were creating a series of chain reaction on stage. There were scenes too, when some dancers would turn into puppets and let others manoeuvre their movements. The idea of homologous movement—upper and lower part of the bodies moving as a whole respectively—was clearly depicted.

Deciphering these scenes, I realized that despite the resonance of youth, people at this age are still very much deprived of life experiences and many a times, we end up being sucked into the current trend and having to go with the flow without really getting a good grasp of our own identities. That is exactly why we need to take risks in life! If we keep following the footsteps or orders of others, we will never give ourselves a chance to discover our own potential within. I like the quote from the introduction of RISQUE:

Take a chance on daring and defying authority,

Take a chance on opening up, leaving and discovering…

And devour this bit of madness that is youth.

In a way, the performers did dance out their courage to take risks and to be on stage. That is why they carried with them a strong affecting sense of confidence, and more importantly, they were liberated through dance. There was not to be found, a hint of reservation or restriction in their movements.

The partnering was refreshing as Fortier played around with the opposite and similar sex. He even infused a brief romance into the dance; nonetheless, it was ironical that he made the dancers human puppets while portraying the “love” scene. To a certain extent, it was comical too how the boy put the girl’s arms around him, and later on, how another girl removed the previous girl from his arms and made him embrace her instead. Indeed, relationships and love affairs are starting to get complicated as we enter adolescence. Meanwhile, whilst this is happening, the other dancers went on dancing on the centre stage—the happenings were not linear but they overlap one another, sometimes I had a hard time trying to decide where to focus my attention on.

Adolescence is the quintessence of abundant creativity; similarly, innovation was a major constitution of RISQUE, as can be seen through the usage of mirror and lighting to reflect the shadows of dancers. There were a couple of scenes where the reflection of the mirror was stretched against the backdrop. I cannot figure out how the dancers were able to create this effect, it just boggles my mind! The lighting effects were commendable too, especially due to the fact that they were created by the dancers themselves through meddling of the lights with their movements or at times, just by placing bottles of water in front of the lights.

I was told that Fortier choreographed RISQUE in silence, he brought in the composer to watch the dancers and to come up with a piece of music that complements the dance. Hence, RISQUE is exceptional in the sense the dancers were not dancing to the beat, but merely with the beat. In other words, the dancers have to be extremely thorough and aware of the rhythm and timing of their movements because the music is not there to support them.

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