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Room with a View

A French ballet troupe works hard to prove its street cred.

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A scene from (LA)HORDE and the Ballet National de Marseille’s production of “Room with a View” at Skirball Performing Arts Center (Photo credit: Thomas Amouroux)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The genteel days of Roland Petit’s Ballet National de Marseille and his fluffy, but elegant, balletic works are a fast fading memory judging from the catastrophe the current members of that troupe perpetuated at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts as part of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival.

Room with a View has nothing to do with E.M. Forster’s Edwardian period novel.  Quite the contrary: it’s a disorganized, hellish vision of young people letting their emotions explode in all directions just for the hell of it—emphasis on hell.

The ballet was conceived and choreographed by Rone and (LA)HORDE (Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer, Arthur Harel) with the participation of the 25 dancers from the Ballet National de Marseille.

The most impressive element in Room with a View was the monumental, multi-level set by Julien Peissel which was a cross between a marble quarry and ancient ruins with the eponymous room excised from the structure on its highest tier.

A scene from (LA) HORDE and the Ballet National de Marseille’s production of “Room with a View” at Skirball Performing Arts Center (Photo credit: Cyril Moreau)

As the audience entered, one nubile lady in a two-piece white outfit (messy, sweaty millennial clothes designed by Salomé Poloudenny) continuously bumped her hips and torso to the strong percussion beat provided by a formally attired man standing at a computer keyboard (Rone, himself, who provided the strident, too loud, electronic score).  She kept this up for almost twenty minutes, as if she were in some hypnotic state.

As if this unexplicated end-of-the-world scenario wasn’t obvious enough, sand and large pieces of debris occasionally fell from the rafters.  (Yes, Chicken Little, the sky is really falling.)  That this effect crudely paralleled actual world events added an unintended jolt.

As the house lights finally dimmed, a couple appeared performing a slow motion Apache dance, sometimes dangling off one level en route to the next.  They wrestled as they oozed down the set, setting the mood for the rest of the work.

Slowly more dancers appeared in sporadic bits of dancing, mostly solos, and lots of meandering about the stage level space.  The dancers paired off in couples—same sex and otherwise—that continued the slightly sadistic routines until four couples paused to remove all their clothing, standing naked for a long period of time.

A scene from (LA) HORDE and the Ballet National de Marseille’s production of “Room with a View” at Skirball Performing Arts Center (Photo credit: Thomas Amouroux)

Movement surged and spread across the stage in what seemed arbitrary bits and pieces.  As the volume of the deafening music rose even higher the dancers converged in a mob that made obscene gestures and shouted nasty curses at the audience. They again coalesced into a stomping, pulsating group—arms flailing, heads bobbing, torsos vibrating—moving en masse for what seemed like hours.  Their sheer sweaty endurance was impressive.

Room with a View turned the Skirball into an underground, drug-addled nightclub where—please forgive my language—nobody gives a shit.  Every hint of humanity was blasted with physical violence.  Every slightly beautiful movement was either repeated meaninglessly hundreds of times or twisted into ugliness.

The dancers performed their dystopian tasks with great dedication and the occasional display of actual technique.  They were all good-looking and clearly into what they believed was an iconoclastic work of social significance, but was actually a pretentious free-for-all that mimicked many clichéd tropes that were exhausted in the Sixties.

Eric Wurtz’s bleak lighting was a perfect match to the action and the music.

The dancers worked hard, sweated a lot and worked up the emotions of the audience who didn’t seem to mind being mocked and cursed.

Room with a View (October 20 & 21, 2023)

Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival

(LA) HORDE and the Ballet National de Marseille

Skirball Performing Arts Center, 566 LaGuardia Place, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.nyuskirball.org

Running time: 80 minutes without an intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (552 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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