By my friend, Christopher Atamian, who went to the Friday night performance.

Pierre Rigal’s Press

September 10-13 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center

Pierre Rigal’s “Press,” originally a 2008 commission from the Gate Theater in London should come with a warning for the claustrophobic or anyone who finds watching another human slowly get crushed à la Star Wars trash compactor scene unsettling. Pierre Rigal, a French mathematician turned hurdler turned dancer performs this solo piece with remarkable aplomb.  For the better part of fifty minutes Rigal contorts, girates, sits, stands and otherwise dances (yes he “wri-gals” as well) inside a box that slowly compresses and threatens to flatten him like a pancake… His only sets are a chair and a slinky rotating lamp creepily reminiscent of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Pressisn’t for everyone: watching Rigal stand on his head and negotiate the walls as the ceiling slowly close in on him is either frightening or frighteningly boring, depending on your point-of-view.

The box, Rigal explains in a previous interview, is a symbol for the danger man faces today in society and also for the solutions to these problems as well.  “The box” Rigal notes like a good Frenchman is eminently “cartesian.” These quasi-philosophical statements do Rigal’s cause little good-he should let the performance speak for itself.  It isn’t every performer after all who can carry off a solo like this with such brio.  Although it begins rather tediously, “Press” increasingly captivates as it heads towards its terrible, unavoidable (funny?) end.  Somewhere about forty minutes out, once Rigal has already swallowed the lamp’s red light bulb and caressed the light’s frame like a pet or perhaps even a lover, a voiced narration joins Nihil Bordures’ clever eerie score (“Inside my head…inside my head…”) implying as I read it that perhaps everything we are witnessing is taking place within his head. This to me is the wonderful if obvious stroke of genius, the redeeming touch that takes an otherwise repetitive performance and lifts it to something unique, powerful and worth watching.

Photo above taken from

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