A pall washed over the normally sunny town of Montpellier, France, when dance aficionados learned that Pina Bausch, the undisputed goddess of theater dance, had died unexpectedly Tuesday in Wuppertal, Germany, at age 68.
What better tribute, then, than to go on with the show(s) at the 29th annual Montpellier Dance Festival, where the art form continues to be on view at various venues through Saturday. In the case of Israeli choreographer-dancer Emanuel Gat, who makes his home in France, his extraordinary duet with Roy Assaf, “Winter Variations,” was performed to a full house at the 2,000-seat Opéra Berlioz. Filling such a vast stage is no easy feat, even for a medium-sized company, but to command the space for 50 minutes with this unabashedly intimate pas de deux proved a breathtakingly emotional journey.
A study in heterosexual male bonding -- talk about bromance -- the world premiere featured the duo executing deliriously perfect unisons. Whether marching militaristically on their knees or moving tenderly minuet-style, holding hands and half-hopping, the pair riveted. The music was also sublime, including Richard Strauss, Franz Schubert, the Beatles and Riad Al Sunbati, while Gat’s gorgeous lighting design created an endless horizon one moment, a beckoning abyss the next.
Gat, 40, is a major talent (he recently made a piece for 12 women of the Paris Opera Ballet), with “Winter Variations” offering catharsis for a troubled world. Indeed, on Tuesday the audience responded with nothing less than a collective sigh at the fragility, beauty and, finally, the resilience of life.
For those unable to have been in the south of France this week (or at the American Dance Festival last week), the work will be presented at the Lincoln Center Festival on July 14, 16 and 17.