Recently, the persistent lack of diversity in cultural production, from films, to television, to print media, has garnered significant attention. And as choreographer Jérôme Bel observes, contemporary dance suffers similar maladies. In an interview for the program notes accompanying the Festival TransAmériques’s production of his work Gala, Bel remarks, “In 99 % of dance shows the dancers are between 20 and 35 years of age, are svelte, in great shape and good-looking… I find that extremely limiting for an art whose tool is the body.” With performances like The Show Must Go On (2001) and Disabled Theatre (2012), Bel has attempted to correct these representational oversights.
The choreographer addresses these problematics once more in Gala, whichassembles a cast of amateur and professional dancers, sourced locally, who cross delineations of race, gender, ability, and body type. Beginning with pirouettes, these performers take turns literally going through the motions of conventional European dance vocabularies, before embarking on a series of group-accompanied solos. The piece reinforces the limitations of concert dance, offering the surprising talents, distinct propositions, and unique energies of a breadth of bodies as a celebratory alternative. It is an important endeavor, and one that succeeds in fostering an undeniably entertaining experience for the audience.