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A French dance group gives Gersh­win’s tunes a fresh spin.

IF chore­og­ra­pher Do­minique Hervieu ever needs in­spi­ra­tion, she need look no fur­ther than the win­dow of her of ce, out past the golden stat­ues which line the cen­tral plaza of the Palais de Chail­lot in Paris.

Bet­ter still, when Hervieu weaves her way through the Palais’ labyrinth of un­der­ground cor­ri­dors to her com­pany’s re­hearsal room in the The­atre Na­tional be­low, she opens the doors to re­veal an un­par­al­leled view from the foyer through the Tro­cadero foun­tains, straight across the River Seine to the Eif­fel Tower.

It is in the mu­sic of Ge­orge Gersh­win, how­ever, that Hervieu and her one-time men­tor and now co-chore­og­ra­pher Jose Mon­talvo found in­spi­ra­tion for the fu­sion of clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­rary dance, live per­for­mance and video ef­fects which they are bring­ing to this year’s Ade­laide Fes­ti­val.

Good Morn­ing Mr Gersh­win melds ev­ery­thing from bal­let to hip-hop and tap-danc­ing to slam-danc­ing with live singing, per­cus­sion and a fan­tasy back­drop of pro­jected video im­agery, all set to the Amer­i­can com­poser’s in­stantly fa­mil­iar pop­u­lar melodies and lively jazz rhythms. Two years ago, Mon­talvo and Hervieu were made co-direc­tors of the land­mark Chail­lot venue, charged with turn­ing it into a pop­u­lar the­atre for the pub­lic, with an em­pha­sis on dance.

Clas­si­cally trained Hervieu, who was born in Nor­mandy in 1963, met con­tem­po­rary chore­og­ra­pher Mon­talvo, 10 years her se­nior, at a bal­let class in Paris in 1981. She soon be­came his favourite dancer, ap­pear­ing in a se­ries of short, play­ful works which he chore­ographed. “It was re­ally based on my move­ment, be­cause it was im­pro­vi­sa­tion,” Hervieu says. The duo fused this with the con­tem­po­rary vis­ual art and mu­sic of the time. “We stud­ied to­gether, re­ally, all th­ese new in uences and all this new ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in art,” Hervieu says. “We had two dif­fer­ent aims. The rst one was hu­mour. At this stage, there was not much of it in dance – it was a lit­tle bit rare to nd this kind of hu­mour, a French style, light­ness. The sec­ond goal was some­thing be­tween ab­strac­tion and nar­ra­tion.”

Af­ter winning sev­eral in­ter­na­tional chore­o­graphic awards, the duo formed the Mon­talvo-Hervieu com­pany in 1988. “I was still a dancer and as­sis­tant and he was chore­og­ra­pher,” Hervieu says. “In 2000, I de­cided to stop danc­ing and now we are co-chore­og­ra­phers.”

Their com­pany uses a dis­tinc­tive style of move­ment, where limbs of­ten ap­pear to be al­most bro­ken or dis­lo­cated. Hervieu worked with a doc­tor in Mi­lan for a year to de­velop a way of danc­ing which is si­mul­ta­ne­ously so rapid and pre­cise that it al­most be­comes a blur, yet is also uid and re­laxed.

The com­pany has vis­ited Aus­tralia once be­fore, 10

Do­minique Hervieu and Jose Mon­talvo.

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