Dance: “Corps Extremes” at BAM
For the first 10 minutes of “Corps Extremes,” you watch a video of Nathan Paulin, a man walking a tightrope suspended across a canyon. The man squats down at several points in the crossing, stands up again, and continues walking. The audience is mesmerized. He then talks about the extraordinary concentration he needs to accomplish this.
Cut to Paulin himself, now on a high line suspended above the stage of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Behind him, eight other performers appear at the top of a large climbing wall. They descend the wall, onto the stage and begin…tossing each other around, defying gravity at every step.
Even though “Corps Extremes” is billed as a dance event, the eight are accomplished acrobats. One dancer is hoisted on another’s shoulders. Then a third or fourth dancer climbs or is tossed on top of those two. You ooh and ahh as muscular women and lithe men fly through the air with the greatest of ease. You wonder how Paulin, still up there highlining, can concentrate with all the frenzy going on below him.
Despite their activity, the performers themselves are pretty chill, as is the moody, Enya-type music by Jean-Baptiste Julien. A few are heard in voiceover, speaking of their trepidation in performing such acts. “I sometimes wonder why I am doing all this.” Everyone giggles, although it wasn’t meant to be a joke.
Then you realize that this is not merely a physical exercise but mental. And that this intense concentration they need puts them onto a higher plane. Call it peace of mind. Happiness. Maybe…nirvana?
Choreographed by Rachine Ouramdine, a French-Algerian ex-dancer based in Lyon, “Corps Extremes” received a 10-minute standing ovation. All I could think of was, “and I get nervous about falling off a bike.”
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