Jerome Bel has yet again challenged audiences’ assertions of what a performance can and cannot be. GALA exposes and calls those beliefs into question in both its content and setting. Premiering at the Prince Theatre, a venue popularly associated with works highlighting formality and technique, Bel gathered twenty movers in Philadelphia that performance goers might characterize as “unconventional”. Some of these movers are trained across a wide span of concentrations while others dance without any formal training. The result: Bel supports the grounding truth that theater is community and demonstrates dancing in a way that excludes no one and validates all.
The title evokes excitement instantly, GALA meaning a public party. The unique collection of performers yielded an equally diverse audience, engulfing the Prince Theatre with energy and excitement. The piece begins with a slideshow of theater spaces across the world, posing the question: where does/can performance take place? We are then introduced to the twenty performances one by one in a series of genres displayed on a sandwich board in the downstage corner. From Ballet to Michael Jackson, company work to improvisation, each performer continually satisfies our desire to answer the question, while expanding our conventional notions. Each performer was able to display their own approach to dance, spanning multiple stages of life and backgrounds, each illustrating a relationship with the audience and that which binds us all, through the articulation of the work. GALA is pure joy, turning shame into permission and providing the audience with a truly celebratory evening of dance theater.