This is not for everyone. This is some weird, weird business. This is also excellent.
It isn’t for people who don’t enjoy challenging and abstract performances, but the wit on display here is first class.
Extremely Bad Dancing to Extremely French Music is one sense exactly what it says on the tin. It’s also a somewhat self-indulgent and very self-aware look at the concept of dancing to accompaniment and the entire concept of “extremely.” It’s also very, very funny, if your sense of humour skews towards visual absurdity.
Composer Matteo Fargion and choreographer Karl Jay-Lewin have collaborated on this movement piece. Here, Jay-Lewin is accompanied by Tim Parkinson, (a composer himself), playing Fargion’s score on piano. A series on signs (all in a mid-price French restaurant menu font) placed on the music stands in front of them indicate what kind of “extremely” we’re about to experience: “Extremely vulgar,” “extremely stupid”, etc. Each “extremely” gets a new movement – altogether, they form a suite of wackiness. To give too much away would ruin the distinct oddness of the proceedings – you never know what’s coming next. Suffice it to say there’s some partial nudity, an elephant costume used, (or rather, not used), to dramatic effect, and my two favourites, “Extremely Left Wing” and “Extremely Right Wing.” Parkinson and Jay-Lewin never have the same caption on their signs, but the (sometimes very abstract) relation between the two captions is always clever.
Sometimes, it seems as though this piece is challenging the very notion of why certain music should go with a certain emotions or physicality. Why do we say that a piece of music is sad or angry, or why indeed do certain movements connote certain emotions? Jay-Lewin’s physicality is wonderfully ironic—he performs each bad dance perfectly in rhythm and without hesitation, but with a trapped, sheepish face, like someone’s uncle forced to do the Macarena at a wedding.
Don’t go to this expecting, well, anything really. This is the kind of show that provokes nervous “should we be laughing?” laughter in an audience. It isn’t for people who don’t enjoy challenging and abstract performances, but the wit on display here is first class. It’s also got an excellent title – who hasn’t done some private flailing around to Françoise Hardy?