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Song and DanceSONG AND DANCE

(2003)

 

Conception and performance Mark Tompkins
Scenic design and costumes Jean-Louis Badet
Stage direction Frans Poelstra
Light design, technical direction David Farine
Musical arrangements “Heaven”, “My Way” Nuno Rebelo
Stagehands Eric Domeneghetty ou Matthieu Perpoint
ou Alexandre Théry
Costume of Prince Albrecht Alice Villeneuve
Administration and touring Amelia Serrano

Thanks to all the team of the
Théâtre de la Cité internationale in Paris


Duration 1 h10

 

Premiered may 12, 2003 at the
Théâtre de la Cité internationale, Paris


 

 


 

 The impossible dream


To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear with unbearable sorrow

To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong

To love pure and chaste from afar

To try when your arms are too weary

To reach the unreachable star

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONG AND DANCE
Irène Filiberti

 

Mark Tompkins, an off-beat promoter of gender transfiguration, likes to define himself as a self-taught man on a continual quest. This atypical performer explores the least foibles and ambiguities of mankind. Throughout his career studded with astonishing projects, he has continued to explore the marginal, the borderline, be it in the social context or the performance world. After his “Hommages” to the great names in dance such as Valeska Gert, Vaslav Nijinski, Josephine Baker and the fourth of the series, a much more personal homage, to his deceased choreographer friend, Harry W. Sheppard, Mark Tompkins returns to this vein by creating a new solo entitled Song and Dance. Which troubled waters await us in this singular form of dance which blends the intimate and the unknown, solitude and multiplicity ? In this creation, the artist’s far-fetched poetic sense takes interest in revealing the aftermath of a show. This small death, which repeats itself every time the sets are dismantled, involving the technicians and the backstage.

Song and Dance begins with a scene where the choreographer is alone on stage at the end of the show. He seems to pass on the action to the technicians who busily remove the lights, curtains, take the trunks and the décor away. Tompkins is the unknown artist who, little by little, emerges out of his role, removes his make up and costume – all acts, which, normally carried out when alone, suddenly become public in this creation which goes against time and the normal sequence of events. Immersed in the solitude of his dressing room at the front of the stage, the actor portrays the tired minstrel, corseted in his dusty Shakespearean costume. Slow strip-tease, where the artist unburdens himself of his make up and bares the reality of theatre. Artefacts laid down one by one soon transform themselves into other profound, intimate images, inexorably related to the creation of a solo as the memory of the body, and to questions of identity and representation.

In this universe, about fifteen songs weave out a dream-like fabric. Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Prince remind us of the transition periods of the last thirty years. Collective memory and personal reminiscence seem to blend in, creating fascinating images. Strange compositions which come across as subjective realities, sway according to the choreographer’s metamorphoses. The images, just like the music in Song and Dance are made up of strands from the past. Mark Tompkins initiates a form of poetry with traces of nostalgia and dances with the ghosts of the theatre and other such shadows, alternating between the macabre and the surrealistic.

Somewhere between serious motives and light words, this new solo has a rare emotional dimension. On stage, in this transfigured self-portrait, Mark Tompkins portrays himself in a naked and singular state that he calls “bare life”. Somewhere between dream and reality and beyond himself, the choreographer invents fictitious divas, embraces a skeleton, disappears into the night of rebirth and other star dust. The sheer magic of theatre melts into the art of ambivalence which does not shun away from the most attractive lies of the Theatre. Firmly rooted in the tradition of lively entertainment, this creation adeptly handles the subversion of kitsch.

With the spirit of derision so characteristic of Mark Tompkins, like a troublemaker trying to chase the impossibility of performance, the choreographer removes the dead skin from the images and from the theatrical illusion simply to come back to the authentic act. Song and Dance is a delicate and vibrant homage to what relates the artist to the public, art to life.

Irène Filiberti


PRESS EXTRACTS

“...With Song and Dance, Mark Tompkins declares his boundless love for dance and for the stage, and also his faith in their capacity to transform reality. Bringing his most precious intimacy to the footlights at the edge of the stage, the choreographer doesn’t burn his wings but finds a way to use his personal story as the substance for a crossing of semblances with universal reach...”

Rosita Boisseau, Le Monde, august 3, 2003


“...“Song and Dance” is much more than a successful evening of song or dance. What the viennese public, who couldn’t believe their eyes and ears, was given to see and hear, was as light and extravagant as the musical comedies from the thirties, as touching and excessive as a rock concert, as fantastic and upsetting as the shows of Prince in his time. And in spite of the irony which runs throughout the piece, we hadn’t by moments seen anything more sad and romantic since “Giselle”.... Tompkins showed that the phantoms of romanticism have still not ceased to pursue the living. Frenetic applause in Vienna."

Wiebke Hüster, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, august 7, 2003


“... Now Tompkins has succeeded to reunite the central elements of his work : the artifice of the stage, the transgression of sexual frontiers, the singularity of his body in the field of the representation of dance, the union of performance, choreography and voice, the conflict between rationality and sentiment, the performance as an act of revelation and an irony full of respect towards the absurdity of human existence..."

Helmut Ploebst, Der Standard, august 8, 2003


“...This stripping away of illusions, this baring of the soul leads him to physical nudity of a poignant elegance of his body as it is. The masks of the artist’s life, and those simply of life itself, fall one after the other. This dance of death, icy, tender and amusing, makes glitter the multiple talents of a “bête de scène” of contemporary dance.”.

Gérard Mayen, Danser, july / august 2003


“... His voice is the voice of a man who sings the story of a generation, with its troubles, its utopia and its reality. What a chance to have amongst the dancers an independant meteorite, whimsical and insolent who reflects what the mirror hasn’t the time to inflect : the mobility of each pore of the skin at the service of the breath and the freedom. All that which does not reflect.

Geneviève Charras, Luxemburger Wort, may 27, 2003


“… Be it on the social or the personal level, to turn this body, its presentation and its representation into a work of art, one has to know how to turn one’s back on present-day trends. Mark Tompkins has done it in a strong and beautiful way, in step, in the time of this faux solo based on the true solitude of the long distance dancer, alter ego of a dancer of pure form...

Georges Cazenove, DNA, may 26, 2003


“… In “Song and Dance”, Mark Tompkins plays perfectly with a scarce decor to create a show which surprises and enchants the audiences at every instant. And that the dancer and choreographer (who also happens to be an excellent singer!) nourishes with a dash of off-beat but pleasant humour. (…) Tompkins presents us a transvestite number of great class, although the quintessence is found elsewhere. It lies in the show’s capacity to move and to touch in the right way, without ever becoming melodramatic. The derision is always accompanied by laughter and nostalgic songs from a paradise not lost, but never reached. The show ends in a hilarious scene where the technicians run around in tutus. There is something so profoundly Tchekov-like about the whole show....

Igor, Hebdoscope, june 4, 2003

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