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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Empty moves creates an ode to the abstract of John Cage’s original work

The Dance Centre’s 2014-2015 Global Dance Connections contemporary dance series opens with celebrated French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s Empty moves (parts I, II & III), performed by his company, Ballet Preljocaj.

[pullquote]“There is something heroic in the act of performing this piece. With the exhaustion, the bodies do not cheat, that’s what is special about this work.” – choreographer Angelin Preljocaj[/pullquote]Set to the infamous 1977 recording of American avant-garde composer John Cage’s Empty Words, Preljocaj’s dance creates an ode to the abstract that is in keeping with the source material.

Cage’s Empty Words is drawn from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau and is considered one of Cage’s most sustained and elaborate moves toward the “demilitarization” of language.  Written in four parts, the first omits sentences, part two omits phrases, part three omits words. Part IV, which one assumes Preljocaj will eventually tackle in his dance, omits syllables leaving nothing but letters and sounds.

“To me Empty moves is a kind of laboratory in which I can work, try and find new possibilities, new moves that can feed my next productions, tomorrow or later,” explains Preljocaj drawing a parallel.

Preljocaj sees Cage’s original work and his choreography as very tightly intertwined, with the sound serving the music for the dance and choreography.

Choreographer Angelin Preljocaj
Choreographer Angelin Preljocaj

“Also, the reactions from the audience, recorded live in 1977 and which are become more and more present during the piece, add somehow a new dimension to the score. This is an incredible physical adventure for the dancers, but it’s also an adventure for the audience who goes through several states; both ordeal and emotion,” he continues.

But while he talks about an aggressiveness to the piece, the real link between the three parts of Empty moves come from the condition of the dancer’s bodies.

“There is something heroic in the act of performing this piece,” he says. “With the exhaustion, the bodies do not cheat, that’s what is special about this work.”

Originally premiering in 2004 with Empty moves (part I) and (part II) added in 2007, the full work comprising all three parts was first performed in June 2014 at the Montpellier Dance Festival. Empty moves (parts I, II & III) will tour to the American Dance Festival and to Italy, Germany and Montreal’s Quartiers Danses festival before coming to Vancouver.

Ballet Preljocaj: Empty moves (parts I, II & III) plays the Scotiabank Dance Centre (677 Davie St) on September 25 & 26.  Tickets are available at Tickets Tonight or visit for more information. 

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