The rehearsal on Monday is hard. It was a big Nutcracker weekend. Olivier and the dancers are tired. After four intense hours, things even get slightly testy, a rarity with this troupe.
Raincoat seems on the surface straightforward, more in the whimsical line of Olivier’s earlier works. But it’s subtle, not simple to perform. The music though relentlessly metric is hard to get a grip on Ballet terms like “assemblé” or “soutenu” are seldom used. Mostly it’s odd little words—“pancake” or “pickle” or “Chinese Water Torture”. The lifts and partnering, for Chalnessa and Ty, are tricky, the instructions—a tilt of the head, the way you hold your fingers—very precise.

Chalnessa, Sugarplum Fairy just the day before, looks exhausted. Difficult too, I imagine, to learn nuances from a bare, artless (and heartless) video. It’s just, as Chalnessa says, a skeleton. Moving in exact synchrony is also a challenge for a group of highly distinct dancers. (Only Andrew is currently a corps de ballet member). Sometimes it’s tough to see what is being got at.

Toward the end, though, patterns begin to emerge: the contrast between silly, loose, aimless bits and rather stern, lockstep sequences in exact formation; the surfacing of individuality out of convention.

Like the original title of the Magritte painting that suggested the title of this piece, Raincoat is about La trahison des images, the treachery of images in our lives. We hide behind our images, our painted representations, our raincoats. The raincoats aren’t raincoats, though, or not merely. They are masks covering what we are underneath. Most people don’t like to go naked without their covering, without a protective hood. Because of the nature of the movement in Raincoat, alternating between free-wheeling whimsy and assertive conformity, this seems to me a piece about adolescents. Youth is a time of experiment, of trying on what it’s like to expose oneself, of living without a raincoat, of seeing one’s true self without a mask.

It’s not so simple as it seems in life or in dance. We are what we wear to some extent. Most people find it too difficult, the raincoat becomes part of them. But bit by bit, one or two decide that what they really are is an open, unguarded self.

Photos by LaVie Photography