In the year of the plague 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote: “This day, much against my Will, I did in Drury-lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “Lord have mercy upon us” writ there.”
Giovanni Boccaccio’s 1353 Decameron is an earlier novel set in a time of plague, in which a group retires to a castle to escape the plague, and they entertain each other with stories and tales.
Cheery stuff, isn’t it? In our 2020 social distancing, some artists react at the moment, doing what artists always do, contributing creative energy to social life. One of these is a performance artist Anatoli Vlassov, a Russian who looks like a Greek god and lives in Paris, a contractual Ph.D. student in performance at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University. Anatoli invites people to join him on his Facebook page, as he creates an interactive dance piece. A 3-minute preview is available here.
I perform for you live to share the containment of COVID-19. Give me words and I transform into PHONESIA, a talking dance that links your words and my gestures in a common flesh.” – A. Vlassov
His art joins a dancer’s movements to songlike vocalizing, similar to Inuit throat singing. Still, while these focus on breathing as the source of vocalization, Vlassov begins with words suggested by the audience. He starts a spontaneous dance and a singsong using those words; he stretches them into every acoustic shape they can twist into, as his body twists in dance-like movement. That, of course, is a description. Like all great artists who touch something primal in our being, Anatoli must be seen and experienced. I find his energy enters my mind and teaches me something unique he discovered, he touches me and awakens parts of my soul I wouldn’t know about otherwise.
Every day until the end of self-isolation, Anatoli is doing an online performance via Facebook Live at 11:30 AM (New York time) or 5:30 PM (Paris, France time). Connect with #DanceWithWords and #DanseAvecLesMots.