1mm Au Dessus Du Sol
Lilian Baylis Studio
Reviewed – 27th September 2019
“The artfulness of his use of physicality is fascinating”
The lights come up on a pitch-black stage in which a grand piano and pianist seem to hover, suspended. The pianist begins; we feel as though we’re seeing the start of a grand, classical concert. But here, as so often during 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol, all is not what it seems.
It doesn’t take long before the pianist – the astonishing Jean-Philippe Collard Neven, of whom more below – is joined by b-boy Yaman Okur, and any expectations of the night begin to be systematically shattered. Is this a breakdancing performance? Well, sort of. And with live classical music? Well, yes, but not as you know it. What follows is an astonishing and surely unique cocktail of what might seem wildly differing disciplines, pulled together into a whole that entertains and, perhaps even more surprisingly, genuinely moves.
The programme describes Okur as ‘an atypical character in the world of breaking’. You’d better believe it. The artfulness of his use of physicality is fascinating; we see what even the uninitiated will recognise as classic breakdancing moves, with shoulders popping and swagger to match, but against the background of the piano and handled slowly, deftly, by Okur, they become something languid or heart-breaking – or something laugh-out-loud funny.
And while Okur’s body, and what it can and can’t allow him to do, become the study of the night (especially a shatteringly powerful conclusion which sees him stripped and vulnerable, his bare back lit from above, each muscle taut and tired), he makes great use of his face in performance. Without words, he shares jokes with the audience and interacts with his pianist collaborator with great eloquence. He truly shows us a full body performance.
It would be a grave mistake to dismiss Collard Neven as just the pianist here, though. He brings so much more than that, and indeed he shares Okur’s delightful use of the expressive body, folding his long form around the piano and across the stage. He appears tweedy, buttoned-up – everything we might expect of a classical pianist. But we see him interact fluidly with Okur, at one stage placing barriers around him on the stage as he appears to writhe in pain in an act that could be either tender or controlling. Certainly, for all his reserved elegance, he controls much of the night; we see him stride past Okur mid-performance and play jarring piano chords that physically jerk Okur’s muscles, so we’re left unsure about how much agency he or any of us can ever have around our bodies in space.
The arc of the night shows us a lifespan before our eyes. At first, a childlike Okur mugs for attention in a classroom (a scene invoked simply by his acting and a single chair on stage), and plays for laughs. But his relationship with his body becomes more torrid as the hour wears on, with sounds clashing and jarring thanks to astoundingly clever use of a whole stage wired as an acoustic device. The curving ramp that at the start looks steely, invoking the skate culture so closely aligned to breaking, by the end becomes a burnished gold column, with Okur hovering angel-like above it. Mention must go to Barbara Kraft’s clever scenography and Bruno Brinas’ lighting design – both are simple but magnetic. As if Okur’s skills didn’t already seem to make him levitate, Brinas’ spotlights elevate him further so we’re shown moments of pure magic.
Like classical music? This is for you. Like b-boy moves? This, too, is for you. Like captivating, human narratives? 1mm does not disappoint.
Reviewed by Abi Davies
Photography by Guillaume Rabgui
1mm Au Dessus Du Sol
Lilian Baylis Studio until 28th September
Previously reviewed at this venue: