Poetic form shine in Patrick Suzeau’s dances

** This article appeared in the now-defunct malaysianinsider in december 2014

HE ran away from his home in Canada, all the way to Mexico, in pursuit of his dream to become a dancer. Today, Patrick Suzeau is an award-winning choreographer and has founded his own company with his choreographer-wife Muriel Cohan, in residence at the University of Kansas.

“When I was 15 years, I wanted to go to the Juilliard School in New York City, in the US,” recalls Suzeau, who was then residing with his family in Montreal, Canada. “My parents said I was too young. I left home… in 1967-8 and hitchhiked to Mexico City to the home of artist Santos Balmori and his choreographer-wife Helena Jordan. They became my surrogate parents.”

They were friends of Suzeau’s first dance teacher, Hugo Romero, in Canada.

Suzeau studied dance there and a year later, applied to enter Juilliard, and got in on a full scholarship. And his parents? “Oh, I called them a few months later. It was all okay.”

The sexagenarian has since performed the world over, and studied or taught at various institutions including Rimbun Dahan, Aswara (National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy) and was artist in residence at the Temple of Fine Arts, in Malaysia.

Suzeau is ending his Fulbright Fellowship residency in Malaysia with a dance programme called Short Stories on January 18, with a Malaysian premiere of his time in the country.

“It is a collection of poems,” he explains, “each with its own statement. It is a reflection on the diversity of humanity and how we are all connected. The dances are contemporary with a narrative.”

Most are from the Cohan/Suzeau dance repertoire over the decades, and performed to pre-recorded music

The programme includes Caligula which is a stark portrait of the decadent Roman emperor in which the textures of madness and cruelty appear. Caligula premiered in 1973, and was conceived during the Nixon administration.  It will be performed in silence by Wong Jyh Shyong, whose talent Suzeau describes is delicate yet strong.

Suzeau’s dance on Malaysia is called Muddy Confluences – Ode and Addiction. It will be performed by 15 dancers from Aswara. “It is set to a hypnotic hang drum duo score. It is whimsical.”

Other dances are Gandharva, performed by Raziman Sarbini. Here, sculptural poses from Indian temples come alive in this synthesis of western contemporary and Indian classical dance. It is set to a vibrant score by Debashish Battacharya and Bob Brozman.

Short Stories will end with a suite of solos set to French songs by Barbara, George Brassens and Jaques Brel. These provide the landscape for a series of poetic kinetic images woven through the text. All are sung by Barbara (born as Monique Serf), who has been acclaimed as “the voice of France”.

For Suzeau, dance movements must have intent within the form.

“The movements must speak to me. It’s self-indulgent to do 10 pirouettes. There must be consciousness of movement and meaning. The statement in the dance must be clear. It should not be poster art, where the mind is not involved when looking at the dance.

“Intent must be realised through artistic perception. I rarely see this. I see self-indulgent displays of technique. From the zillions of pieces I have seen everywhere, I have seen gems that have moved me but these are rare.

“You see many dance contests everywhere, and the young people taking part do dance movements which are sexy. What is that? The dancers titillate to sell. Like pretty cars selling cars. They are not taught that movements speak. Capitalism is entering the art of dance.”

 “The aesthetic experience comes from exquisite form. I want the audience to respond to aesthetic ecstasy.”

** The show, Short Stories, was performed on Jan 18, at 5.30pm, at TFA’s Shantanand Auditorium (114-116, Jalan Berhala, Brickfields).

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Filed under Arts, Dance
Subhadra Devan

A journalist who has been writing about culture, arts and heritage since the 1980s. She is herself gobsmacked to have started the Sunday arts pages for English newspapers in Malaysia, in the new millennium. The passion for these genres rages on.

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