Reflections on “Nuit”
by Barbara Simms
Nuit is performed without music, but certainly not without sound. The space is filled with the stomping of the weighted work boots worn by all the dancers, layered with vocalizations throughout the work. Any silences that occur are heavy with intentionality, and are intercut with the sounds of dancers catching their breath. When the silence is broken, it is by the jarring sounds of pounding feet, eliciting something guttural in the viewer. The boots and their sounds serve as the foundation for the work. The movement is fueled from the ground up, as the performers are moved by their stomping feet.
This 80-minute work is a true exercise in endurance. As an audience, we feel as though we are right there alongside the dancers, as they take on this physical challenge. Now and again, we witness moments of the dancer underneath the character – the human finding opportunities to breathe, and to find relief within the choreography from the steady ongoing, and physically demanding nature of the work.
Though originally choreographed in 1986, Nuit remains deeply thematically relevant in what it says emotionally, grasping both sides of the dichotomy between rigidity and frenzy. While the work deals with themes of uniformity, each character’s pathway within the work is clear, personal, and distinct. The choreography is rooted in clarity. Clear shapes and lines in the bodies of the dancers, clear configurations on stage, clear rhythms in the patterns of stomps. Any moments of wildness stand out boldly in contrast.
As the piece begins, the performers act as neutral vessels, with monotone expressions and the physical signatures of the movers stripped away. This neutrality opens a channel for us to imagine ourselves onto the experiences of the dancers. The ongoing marching, intercut with deeply human and emotionally driven moments indicates that we are witnessing people going through the motions of life, looking for, and finding opportunities for release, expression, and drive within the mundanity of routine. As solos and duets make their way into the work, there are moments of unfurling, looseness, and exposing of the self, and exhaustion gives room for personal expression to emerge. As the work goes on, it continues to unravel, and a tenderness starts to creep in. The rigid edge of the choreography begins to break down.
When the lights come up, we are left with the sense that the work goes on, and what will continue long after we leave the theatre is eight people, working through the turbulence of everyday life, finding each other throughout as a means to get through the night together.