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T WORK Mambo as they return to Edinburgh with surreal and satirical dance extravaganza TUTU
tutu. Some sections poke fun at performers’ vanity, some at choreographers and their earnest visions. The culture behind various types of dance is in the pillory, but it’s more of a tickling ridicule than a savage skewering, and often the surreal images are enough in themselves to provoke laughter. The dance of the cygnets from Swan Lake is performed by B-boys in tubby duck suits pointing and posturing. Later the boys in tutu nappies carouse to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Though there are also passages of serious beauty – aerial silk work and graceful arm solos – what is clear is that above and beyond proi ciency in many different styles, the key criterion for becoming a Chico Mambo is a sense of humour. ‘I think it’s something which you either have, or you don’t,’ Queau says. ‘When we did the audition, there were some dancers who were very good technically, but had no comic expression –
and what Philippe is looking for is somebody who isn’t embarrassed or shy to project that humour. It was really the personality
he was looking for. You can’t take yourself too seriously; you have to be generous.’
It’s a generosity that can be especially hard for some when the object of the humour is contemporary dance. Some performers, according to Mercier, hold the form in such high esteem that they are reluctant to laugh either at it or themselves. It’s something he can sympathise with, ‘because it’s a lot of hard work, and dance is very spiritual. Philippe wants to i nd a way to cut through this and be more funny and laugh about dance.’ Having sent up companies who approach contemporary dance so earnestly, could Queau and Mercier ever perform in one of those companies again in all sincerity? ‘Yes,’ says Queau, as if it is a preposterous question. ‘For me, no,’ counters Mercier. ‘Some companies are very good and the work is very good. But when we do something ridiculous on stage and
then go to an audition where
they ask us to do the same kind of thing we do here, only seriously... it’s hard to be serious now.’
Despite references to Pina Bausch, Stravinsky and Swan Lake, there’s no need to be au fait with dance history to be in on the Chicos’ jokes. And for the troupe it’s fascinating to see which parts of the show different audiences respond to. ‘When we’re dressed as ducks doing Swan Lake,’ says Queau, ‘the kids don’t make the connection, but they i nd the ducks funny. So if you get the joke, that’s great; but if you don’t get it, you can still enjoy it.’
Still there is one part of TUTU about which audiences can only speculate. ‘We change character and costumes so says Mercier. ‘There are two shows: the one you stage and the one going on see on
backstage.’ TUTU: Dance in All Its Glory, Pleasance Courtyard, 5–28 Aug (not 9, 15, 22), 4pm, £11–£14.50 (£9.50–£13); Previews 2–4 Aug, £8.
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3–10 Aug 2017 THE LIST FESTIVAL 27