Jerome Bel’s “Pichet Klunchun and Myself”

Pub date February 24, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionStage

PREVIEW In Europe, French dancer-choreographer Jerome Bel’s work has earned him the nickname of the "pope of anti-dance." While it’s true that Bel has a tendency toward pontificating on contemporary performance theories, and his work — minimalist in terms of movement, maximalist in terms of embracing the ordinary human body — stays far outside the parameters of what dance audiences might expect, he is anything but anti-dance.

He lives and breathes dance — the relationship between performer and choreographer, the persona and the person, the meaning and the content, the concepts of absence and presence. This type of theory-driven work has gained him ardent admirers as well as virulent detractors all over Europe.

To some American observers, his approach recalls the coolness of the Judson Church dancers of the early 1960s. But Bel is much more a creature of the theater than the Judson people ever were — or pretended to be. Communication with an audience is a key motivating factor of his practice. With Pichet Klunchun and Myself, Bel has succeeded in reaching his viewers more than he ever thought he might: the work has been a hit ever since that first, almost accidental encounter between Thai dancer Pichet Klunchun and Bel during the 2005 Bangkok Fringe Festival. Some super-savvy presenter hooked them up for an interview onstage in which the two artists were supposed to question each other about their respective disciplines. What has evolved from this meeting is an evening of wide-ranging conversation and dance demonstration by two artists whose lives literally evolved worlds apart but who found themselves connected and separated in ways neither could have dreamed of.

JEROME BEL’S PICHET KLUNCHUN AND MYSELF Tues/3, 8 p.m., $15–$20 (ticket buyers receive 50 percent off to David Rousseve’s Saudade March 5–7). Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978-2787,