Under the Paving Stones, the Beach

Concord Academy, April 23-25, 2015.unnamed (1)

Choreography by Richard Colton and CA Dance Company.

Orreric light elements by Abigail Donovan and Tom Hughes.

“Under the paving stones, the beach.” This exhortation was found written on the walls of Paris in May 1968, a time of dizzying civil insurrection when students took over the Sorbonne, protestors took to the streets, and French workers went on a series of general strikes. The graffiti that filled the walls of Paris in ’68 owed its language to the movement known as the Situationist International (1957-1972) and the writings of such figures as Ivan Chtcheglov and especially the SI’s leading voice, Guy Debord. The SI militated vigorously against consumerism and the alienating effects of what Debord famously termed the“society of the spectacle,” in favor of playful, street-level tactics for politically engaged activism and art. These tactics for creating disruptive “situations” in the course of everyday urban life informed our own process as we set out to make a dance that behaved differently from what one might expect: a disobedient dance!


Our performance casts a glance back at this activist past in order to illuminate something about our restive present and imagine, even tentatively, a hopeful future. At the beginning of our creative process, we asked our dance company to consider what they might make of a world they hadn’t made—both how they understood the relations that defined them and how they might remake that which caused them discontent. Could art forms such as dance truly be a tool for this task of remaking? What would it look like for a dance to be not simply about such themes but rather to embody these elemental conflicts between authority and dissent, culture and anarchy, commerce and art, despair and hope? What would we find there under the paving stones, if only we dared to look? “Be realistic,” another Parisian graffitist wrote, adding: “Demand the impossible!” Is this too much to ask?



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