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French Connection 

From the country that effortlessly combines intellect and sensuality comes a new dance by Maguy Marin

Wednesday, Apr 3 2002
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Thank God for the French. It was the French, after all, who gave us Jean-Jacques Rousseau, haute couture, Michel Foucault, and pain au chocolat, for starters. Without these arbiters of taste, who would assert that food and sex are fine arts, or that linguistics can and ought to be a national obsession? If the French disappeared, not only would semiotics lose its moorings, but the dance world would be as simple-minded as the streets of West Side Story. On the one hand, we'd have cerebral German choreographers deconstructing Brecht, and on the other, tough Americans throwing themselves on the ground until darkness fell. What a tiring drill that would be.

Fortunately, as both lusty sensualists and Cartesian intellectuals, French choreographers seduce us into thinking, then turn thinking into a sensual delight. One of the most celebrated and delightful of these Gallic dance-makers is Maguy Marin, the 50-year-old former director of Lyons Opera Ballet who brings her own troupe, Compagnie Maguy Marin, to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with a large new work called Points de fuite (Points of Escape).

An exploration of both fugue form and the role of individuality in collective effort, Points de fuite is a study in constraint and freedom. Marin opted to focus on the fugue because it is one of the most devilishly exacting structures in music, one that seems to bind the artist with almost mathematical rules. From such restriction, she set out to discover how the individual can escape into freedom.

But Marin is French, not American: She builds dances about uncertainty and contradiction, not liberty. What interests her is the point of ambiguity between confinement and escape. What she hopes to unveil is a delicate interplay "between extreme awareness and constant wariness." As Foucault would say, "Oui, oui."

About The Author

Ann Murphy

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