Dance Review: Compagnie Thor at Kennedy Center

Compagnie Thor cottons to choreographer Thierry Smits's highly theatrical "D'Orient."
Compagnie Thor cottons to choreographer Thierry Smits's highly theatrical "D'Orient." (Kennedy Center)

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The airborne fuzzy bits of raw cotton that floated across the front rows of the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Tuesday night did nothing to obscure the brilliance of Thierry Smits's choreography. The fluff was from sacks of cotton spread around the stage by the all-male dancers of Smits's Brussels-based Compagnie Thor as part of his contemporary dance work "D'Orient," a piece presented as part of the Kennedy Center's Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World festival.

This is contemporary dance that is theatrical and, at times, verges on performance art. What the dancers do with each other onstage is as much for themselves as it is for the audience.

And it is the fine balance between dancers looking inward and the choreographer using them to create an outwardly pleasing picture that marks Smits's brilliance. He has a hermit's heart and a painter's eye.

"D'Orient" expresses Smits's impressions of the Middle East after several visits there. But, this is about him, not the Orient. Dancers roll with pleasure and burrow with abandon in a sea of wooly cotton. Bare-chested couples in a public bath languorously stretch, massage and wipe each other off. Sometimes this morphs into an embrace. Sometimes it doesn't. They look at each other the way a gourmand contemplates a succulent morsel.

Eight dancers frequently are doing eight different things. Yet this never distracts because the disparate movements hold together as a composition. It is never boring because Smits's movements are endlessly inventive.

-- Pamela Squires


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