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.