Do not expect ballet from Les Ballets C de la B. This intrepid Belgian company has built its considerable international reputation on bold and vigorous physical theatre delivered through an eclectic mix of styles and media. The first half-hour or so of Import Export, directed by Koen Augustijnen, shows just how good the company can be. The stage, stacked with crates, looks like an industrial warehouse, and its miked floor thunders ominously as the six dancers rock rhythmically across it. Set against this brute environment, like spirit set against flesh, are the gentle, articulated sounds of a string quartet – four women seated on one of the stacks – and the lyrical voice of countertenor Steve Dugardin.
As the title suggests, this piece is about exchanges between people, and the checks and balances they entail. There is an unsettling duet between Milan Szypura, first swinging then falling from his crutches, and Augustijnen, who veers from stand-offish to guilty to resentful. Gael Santisleva flops like a landed fish, his legs twisting beneath him. He is thrown about by two men like so many pounds of flesh, while onlooker Lazara Albear trembles with pity.
these scenes are almost painful to watch, and tap directly into some of our most basic fears about power, danger, escape and survival
Brilliantly choreographed and performed, these scenes are almost painful to watch, and tap directly into some of our most basic fears about power, danger, escape and survival.
It is a shame the subsequent episodes do not pack the same punch. Too often the strung-out scenes dissipate their energy or undermine their impact with easy laughs.