Leaving the theater with a sense that you cannot quite put what you have just witnessed into a particular category is always fascinating and tends to remain in the background of one’s thoughts for quite a while. Seen at REDCAT on Wednesday, November 11, 2023 takemehome by Damitri Chamblas with Kim Gordon was one such work that caused me to think that what Chamblas had created was dance theater or performance art theater. The press release calls it “a visual and auditory experience featuring dance performances, electric guitars, and amplifiers.” That it is!
This performance of takemehome at REDCAT was part of a lengthy tour that included major cities in France; Tijuana, Mexico; Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.
There were nine dancers, a large luminous zeppelin looming over the stage, five amps and five guitars, members of the audience who participated in the first ten minutes of the work, and much more. Loneliness is one adjective that crossed my mind for takemehome. Anger, desperation, purgatory, and a homage to Dante’s Inferno also raced through my mind as I sat trying to take in all that was transpiring onstage.
As the audience entered, the zeppelin was a bright white with a mirror ball hanging inside and resting gently on the stage like a grounded blimp. Audience members were led onstage and quietly given instructions to lie down and remain motionless. Other performers entered, the invited were led around and then ushered back to their seats and the zeppelin was lifted about six feet off the stage.
As the piece proceeded, the zeppelin changed from white, to blue, to red and back to white. It appeared to represent a vehicle of transportation for the characters to enter, reflect on their existence and express how they were treated before moving on to whatever was their next adventure; be it death or just another reinvention of themselves.
The program notes refer to “the forgotten ones of the metropolises: prisoners, elders, unproductive ghosts, the neglected, the indecisive.” takemehome brings them all into focus through movement without mimicking or being too literal. People race across the space only to stop and do nothing. They come and go without being noticed until they begin to move alone, in twos or a group. Often there is one or two just standing on the edges observing or seemingly void of thought.
Chamblas’ takemehome was not an easy work to sit through and he did test one’s ability to observe, reflect on, listen to and allow oneself to feel the emotions coming across the space into one’s mind and heart. One must engage, seek out and above all question because his work was not entertainment.
The music by Kim Gordon was extraordinary. It was often loud, but never unbearably so. During one section, however, it did cause my seat to vibrate and in another I felt like her music was causing my blood to ripple; but it was not an unpleasant sensation.
Is it possible to dislike and to love a work at the same time? takemehome evoked this reaction from me and perhaps that is what art should do – make one question as well as to experience emotions.
The entire cast of takemehome were wonderful but a few standouts deserve mentioning. It was difficult to see anyone else whenever Marissa Brown was featured. She has an intense presence that literally draws one to her. Jobel Medina also drew attention during his thrashing solo that was filled with sudden stops. Gargling water while moving about, down to the floor and back up cannot be easy but François Malbranque managed to do so brilliantly. Eli Cohen gave a powerful performance throughout and finally, Salia Sanou’s closing solo was both heartbreaking and exciting to watch. The remainder of the exceptional cast included Marion Barbeau, Eva Galmel, Pierrick Jacquart, François Malbranque, and Kensaku Shinohara.
The stark but provocative lighting design was by Yves Godin in collaboration with Virginie Mira for the zeppelin conception. The very diverse and appropriate costumes were by Dimitri Chamblas and Andrealisse Lopez.
For more information about REDCAT, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Marion Barbeau and Salia Sanou in Dimitri Chamblas’ “takemehome” – Photo by Angel Origgi