I think style most aligns with Millepied’s approach in this piece: the female dancer expresses such a limp, languid and languorous feeling, almost as though she were rag doll compelled into action by the male ballet dancer, the music, and indeed the audience. Her posture, and the balance of her head (constantly rolling around on her shoulders as body poses then collapses in the arms of her male counterpart, at once stretching and rising with the swell of the music and then crashing as though the feeling and movement were impossible to sustain). Perhaps it is the music itself, its unending repetitious quality, that tugs at Millepied’s dancer’s and thus gives us the style that we see on the stage — or perhaps it is Millepied’s own sense of our culture — stuffed, artificial, inauthentic, yet propped up by these traditions — art, music, dance — which he sets before us, inviting us to see the dancers the way we once watched Pinocchio as he wrestled with his “strings” under Stromboli’s stern and watchful gaze.
Indeed, the feeling that the music gives is alternatingly uplifting and oppressive and this is expressed in the dancers’ phrasing, as they pause, attempt to gather themselves, participate in a motif, before seemingly letting the air out as the oppressive surge of some inscrutable thing weighs down upon them and us all. This could be the effect of manipulation on the part of the musical score, which Millepied identifies and incorporates into his sequences, reflecting the overall manipulative aspect of modern culture, which attempts to push and pull us in so many contradictory directions at once that we become, like the dancers, as reeds blowing and being tossed back and forth in the wind. There is something of elegance in the act, but at the same time it is obvious that the actors are, more or less, at the mercy of the elements.
Thus the locomotion of Millepied’s style is on display: alternating between slow amblings and faster (but still slow) reductions of negative space, the demonstration of harmony, virtuosity and dynamics resembles that of a couple in the throes of some troubling, existential passion, subtle and on the surface barely noticeable because of the quiet calm and self-possession that the actors retain, though below the surface the soul is violently trembling to such an extent that the audience is torn between expecting an explosion and delighting in the capacity for self-restraint.
What does it all mean? The style is the substance in this case and both may be taken as the intent as well. The changing patterns which include going from hesitating demonstrations of a gulf between the two dancers reflected in the expansion of negative space to the slow intertwining of the two as positive space overtakes them as they join together as one in a slow movement interpretation of the music. This style suitably represents a kind of extended courtship or relationship…