Review: From Maguy Marin’s Toolbox, Sex and Violence and Farandole

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Cathy Polo (in the red dress) and members of Compagnie Maguy Marin in Ms. Marin’s “BiT” at the Joyce Theater. Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

How many dancers does it take to form a human chain (by way of a folk dance) that breaks apart for sexual assault and links back up again? In this case, an even six.

That’s right: Maguy Marin was back in town. And her “BiT,” though created in 2014, seemed particularly timely.

This French choreographer hasn’t presented her work in New York in nearly a decade, but in “BiT,” she made up for lost time, filling her evening-length dance with items from her ever-disturbing tool kit. On the sex-and-violence side, there was assault, an orgy and, make no mistake, a gang rape. By monks.

Ms. Marin lives for provocation in her work, and though the means to her end can slip into hokeyness, her insistence on digging into human behavior — the good, the bad, the ugly — has always seemed heartfelt.

In preparation for “BiT,” the Joyce Theater’s website and press materials were filled with warnings about nudity and explicit sexual content. Well-meaning ushers laid on more cautionary phrases so that by the time you sat down, the show lost some of the bite it might have had. How could anything live up to such hype?

“BiT” started out gently enough. Ms. Marin was inspired by the farandole, the lulling French folk dance in which the performers hold hands and skim the floor with light, skipping steps. But there were anomalies here: For one, the music was buzzing and electronic. And for another, the dancers didn’t always glide along on the flat surface of the floor; they also moved up and down six ramps with controlled, elegant footwork.

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