Francis Cossu

The watchword for Olga de Soto's Paumes (Palms) is, incontestably, "no concessions". Painstaking work that advances the art of dance itself. With great strides.

As we all know, it is in Belgium (where this choreographer of Spanish origin lives) that, after France in the 80s, different forms of contemporary dance have emerged. Often more radical in the manner of conceiving movement. Devoid of literary tricks as to modes of representation.

A shade, black against a white background, glides around the studio like a perpetual gesture, a sort of Damocles' sword hanging over the dancers. The movement of the pendulum (by Thibault Vancraenenbroeck) has a threatening effect through its slow and calculated presence. For, in a word, what matters is what one is actually doing on stage (why dance ?), for otherwise...

In this cycle, Olga de Soto, a real pioneer, accompanied by Pascale Gigon (with a presence impeccably light in her serious moments), applies a visual approach to the contemporary music of Denis Pousseur or Salvatore Sciarrino as well as a musical listening to the movement.

A solo, Murmurs, and two duets, Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues and Seuls bruits des corps entre eux (Sounds of bodies amongst themselves only) explore (during too short an hour) the architectonic shade and light zones of these fairly unknown compositions.


The point of departure seems complex, even arid, but the dance is of a luminous clarity. For proof. Olga de Soto is lying down. She gets up. She walks and cuts through the space with a movement (up until then restricted to an area of the corporal memory) that soars, stretched upwards. If this gesture radiates simplicity and obviousness, it is because it does not stem from the concept. It seems, on the contrary, to escape from the body to explore, through single sensual abstractions, the unheard-of resonances of sense that the gesture can create.

Red. After a soft light, the colour (thanks to Gaëtan van den Berg) explodes. The dance surprises when the dancers play with movement as the pianists give form to the music. The gesture shapes the score and gives substance to the movement (a term fortunately common to both artistic expressions!). Moreover, the hips undulating to the striking of the strings do prove that, above all, music gets you in the guts, doesn't it?

The darkness in the last duet clearly puts into perspective both shade and light. And, simultaneously, it makes one listen to and watch a thinking, vibrating body.

Everything keeps us in suspense, up to the dancers' breathing, which reminds us, without any doubt, that we must not hesitate to experience the act of "seeing", even where it is the least obvious. An approach too rare to miss.

Francis Cossu, L'été des Hivernales (2/4) : Olga de Soto, La Marseillaise, July 19, 1998