Performing Arts: Dance
September 18, 2022
For Jeanne, an awkward French teenager, going live on Instagram is a rare occasion but when she has the house to herself (father’s on a business trip, mother’s at a church meeting) she presses record and starts to talk to her followers. Created by Marion Siéfert and presented by the French Institute Alliance Française as part of their annual Crossing The Line Festival _jeanne_dark_ is a tour de force one-woman show, performed by Helena de Laurens.

The stage of the lovely Florance Gould Theater is transformed into a white box, fabric walls devoid of decoration and flanked by two tall and equally plain screens--onto which English supertitles and Jeanne’s live video are projected. Jeanne herself is colorfully clad in Valentine Solé’s costumes, smartly tasteless in a way that endears her to the audience. She babbles about controlling parents, faith, school, and her jealousy of the fact that her sister is no longer a virgin, punctuated by the occasional dance break.

In these moments the performance is at its most sublime: Jeanne’s strange and erratic dance moves reveal things about her relationship with her body that her words cannot. And as each dance passes her language loosens and her relationship with sexuality becomes more lucid as she provocatively adjusts her clothes and dances along to Cardi B’s WAP.

As the performance spirals things start to get weird: one of the various Instagram accounts commenting on Jeanne’s video begins to address the audience, providing commentary and comedy. Jeanne smears lipgloss across her mouth and eyelids and, in a surreal turn, produces a sparkling knight’s gauntlet from her backpack and runs it across her body, imbuing herself with violent self-empowerment.

Climactically the disembodied voice of Jeanne’s mother arrives, knocking loudly on her locked bedroom door and demanding to know what Jeanne is doing. In their argument Jeanne lashes out with her words and hands, leaving her mother crying as she displays a capacity for cruel honesty that is alien to the timid version of her that began the play. Retreating into the corner of the room and readdressing her digital audience, she peels off her shirt and writhes slowly to ethereal music as the light drains away.

_jeanne_dark_ is an invaluable addition to the growing pantheon of hybrid format theater, providing a unique and intriguing experience both live and online, and pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a stage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

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