SOLO: LE DOUTE M'HABITE (THE DOUBT WITHIN ME) choreographed and performed by Philippe Decouflé. Presented by Harbourfront Centre's New World Stage at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Opens Tuesday (March 20) and runs to March 24, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm. $40-$50. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
Choreographers usually reach hundreds of people at a time with their work, sometimes thousands. Philippe Decouflé has reached millions.
The wunderkind artist staged the stunning 1992 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies in Albertville, France, that immediately raised the standard for such spectacles and launched his international career.
"It was the biggest thing I've ever done, a fantastic experience," he says on the phone in that way the French have of sounding slightly bored even when they're excited.
"I was free to do whatever I felt. And in France it really changed how I was perceived. Before, I was considered an underground artist. I played one week in Paris. Now I play three months."
And he gets to tour. His Toronto appearance in The Doubt Within Me, part of Harbourfront's New World Stage series, marks the last leg of an extensive North American tour.
The show is dubbed a solo but actually involves six people, including an onstage trombonist, and combines dance, film and spoken word.
"I've always been fascinated by the difference between seeing something with your own eyes and on the TV," says Decouflé. "The power of TV is strong, but it's flat and you feel less emotion than when you see something live.
"A few years ago, I was giving a video dance workshop and discovered that it was possible to use video as a kind of live set. Then I experimented to find the simplest way to play with it. What I've come up with is something that's in between film and live performance."
In the piece, Decouflé's image is multiplied several times and he plays with his doubles and shadows and interacts with the musician.
"I like the idea of being alone and yet not alone at the same time," he says. "It's close to real choreography, only from one body. I talk a bit, there are some funny tricks, some abstract dance, and at times it looks like an animated painting."
Influenced by everyone from Merce to Marceau, Decouflé insists that his works be accessible to all, including kids.
"It's my responsibility to entertain," he says. "Most contemporary dance is too intellectual. You have to read the program to try to understand what they're talking about. That shouldn't matter. Dance is an abstract art. You can make something that's closer to poetry than anything else."
One of his dream projects is to do a new kind of musical, an enormous show with 100 people, half musicians and half performers. Maybe then the French critics will reconsider the word they coined, "decoufleries," to describe something as a novel mix of dance, circus and film.
"That was a journalist thing," sighs Decouflé. "I don't know what it means. I try to change the way I work every time I do something. I don't think I have a specific style."