Tag: Montclair

  • Performer Vanessa Van Durme in "Gardenia" | Photo by Luk Monsaert

    Transvestite cabaret blossoms in “Gardenia,” a dance-theater work from Belgium

    MONCLAIR, N.J.: Think of it as a Follies for the third gender. Or La Cage aux Folles as re-dressed by Pina Bausch. A dance-theater piece from Belgium, Gardenia conjures the closing night of a transvestite cabaret in Barcelonia where seven middle-aged men (between 55 and 65 years old) recall their double lives as cross-dressing movie stars and as ordinary citizens. Since its premiere at the Avignon Festival, the show has been a hit in the European festival circuit (I saw it Sarajevo). It performs through March 25 at the Alexander Kasser Theater as part of Peak Performances on the Montclair State University campus in Montclair, New Jersey. Gardenia is a hybrid work: part documentary, part visual performance and part extravagant pageant. It was devised by a contemporary dance collective, les ballet C de la B, which is based in Ghent and is considered part of the Belgian new wave. It started as a collaboration. The Belgian playwright and director, Vanessa Van Durme, approached choreographer Alain Platlel and theater director Frank van Laecke with the idea of creating a stage counterpart to the film Yo soy asi, a movie about a transvestite cabaret that is forced to close its doors. Van Durme assembled a cast of six older real-life transvestites and transsexuals, most of them in their 70s. The final cast includes a women in her 40s and a younger male dancer. Premiered in June 2010 in Ghent, Gardenia has been performed in major cities in Europe including at the Sadler’s Wells in London.  It is directed by Alain Platel and Frank Van Laecke, who head Les Ballets C de la B in Belgium. Wrapped with music (everything from Jay Z‘s Forever Young and Claude François‘s Je vais à Rio to Charles Aznavour‘s Comme ils disent and Ravel’s Bolero), Gardenia is a paradoxical looking-glass mirror. It wants us to be voyeurs …