Taking Rameau to the streets : When the children start doing hip-hop steps, they seem to transform the scene into one of community and belonging.

THE choreographer Bintou Dembele was at the Paris Opera one recent afternoon, rehearsing a new production of Rameau's rarely performed Baroque spectacle ''Les Indes Galantes.''

Four vogue dancers had formed a semicircle onstage, each elevated on a gray slab. They had contracted their torsos, rounding their backs while looking back from the audience.

Their poses seemed passive rather than confrontational and Ms. Dembele, 44, a pioneer of French hip hop dance, suddenly spoke up. ''They cannot be in that position while the word 'slavery' is being sung,'' she said. 

''Les Indes Galantes,'' playing through last October, is among the premier examples of 18th-century   ''opera-ballet,'' a melding of loosely plotted sung narrative and extravagant dance sequences.

At its 1735 premier, the work was designed to represent the triumph of French Enlightenment order over the ''other,'' depicting a series of stories of love and virtue set in exotic realms.

[''Indes'' was, at at the time, a term used to describe all  non-Europeans locales]., Its score is among Rameau's most voluptuously colorful and vibrant.

To audiences today, however, its cast of Turkish, Peruvian and Native American characters can seem hopelessly hackneyed. And its french-gallantry-conquers all plot can come across as  propaganda for colonialism
[One of the acts is called   ''The Savages'']

The scene Ms. Dembele was rehearsing revolves around two Persian men; each falls in love with the other's female slave. ''Love is necessary in slavery,'' says one of the masters. ''It sweetens the hardship.''

The libretto is full of offensive moments like this, Ms. Dembele's  choreography suggested that such moments have to be surely subverted.

But can ''Les Indes Galantes'' subvert the ideology it was written to uphold? Ms. Dembele and Clement Cogitore, the artist and filmmaker making his stage debut as the production's director, have bet that it can.

''I hope to reveal what the text refuses to name, to show its misunderstandings,'' Ms. Cogitore said in an interview.
''A stereotype is a character who suffers because we haven't listened to his story.''

The production originated with a video short Mr. Cogitore created in 2017 under the auspices of the Paris Opera's Third Stage program, which is designed to connect opera and ballet with new audiences.

Set to ''The Dance of the Peace Pipe,'' from the fourth act of ''Les Indes Galantes,'' the film was a collaboration with Ms. Dembele and a group of dancers specializing in the vigorous street style called Krump.

Featuring a dance-battle like circle on the stage of the Opera Bastille here, the film escalates in energy as those on the outskirts join the dancers in the center with short staccato arm jabs and chest pops, mounting to a brio that appears both ecstatic and angry.

The honor and serving of the latest writing on Culture and Plays, continues. The World Students Society thanks author  Madison Mainwaring.


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