Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) inspires a dance performance based on the poetry of Baudelaire

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Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) based on the poetry of Baudelaire is a dance performance which debuted, and sold out at Avignon OFF festival, and which has just had its Australian debut at Adelaide Fringe. 

Les Fleurs du Mal

Baudelaire was a French poet in 19th century Paris and Les Fleurs du Mal was banned on the grounds of obscenity and public decency. He and the publisher were both prosecuted for it!


The description of the show offered on the Fringe website is: “A confession of hopes, dreams, failures and sins, The Flowers of Evil attempts to extract beauty from the malignant.  One must evoke the artificial and paradoxical aspects of life.  Beauty can evolve on its own, irrespective of nature and fuelled by sin. The ideal transcends over the harsh reality where all senses are united in ecstasy.”


At the very end of the show, when lights come back up, Shakti explains a little about Baudelaire’s view that we are all good and evil, and the paradoxical nature of beauty and the grotesque. That he thought we all had what it takes to be both good and evil, lightness and darkness. For future presentations of the show, audiences may enjoy having the option of a program which summarises or quotes some of Baudelaire’s verses. 


In the performance of Les Fleurs du Mal, three dancers appear on stage, but one, Shakti, is the lead, the other two her backups, her assistants at times. Opening the performance, the two other dancers wear black tops with a red skirt and a green sash, and Shakti is all in red. Later, the two other dancers reappear changed into long dresses with Japanese characters painted down them. Shakti has costume changes too but hers are more of an unlayering, firstly coming down to a g-string bodysuit and later to toplessness and later still complete nakedness.  If you’re afraid of nudity, you might want to avoid this show but you really shouldn’t because it’s not nudity done in a tasteless or provocative way. 


Shakti claims to have created her own form of dance being “a unique hybrid form of dance blending eastern dance traditions and yoga with western contemporary dance resulting in a exotic and erotic effect.” There is a lot of gesturing upward, palms outstretched like offering or praying to the Gods, from which we could also see hints of saluting the sun poses from yoga. The dance itself is at times quite energetic, particularly the thigh trembling, stomping movements. 


Red satiny fabric, and later pleated metallic silver fabric, is used to great visual effect particularly when it’s being twirled. It’s used to contort and control the dancers at times and at others thrown and twirled in celebration. At one point the metallic fabric gives the appearance of angel wings on Shakti. 

Les Fleurs du Mal

Occasionally, Shakti has a cheeky, flirtatious grin perhaps representative of evil (le mal). The other dancers wear darkly coloured Venetian style masks for one part of the show, also embodying the darkness, the evil. Later still, brushing her hair and looking into a mirror, Shakti is then representing beauty.


The music for the majority of Les Fleurs du Mal appears to be of Indian origin/influence with the exception of one song with a male vocalist singing in English.


In our interview with Shakti she said that she is “not young, I am ageless.  I revel in growing old and withering away in perfection.” We can only hope to look so good and have such vibrance and energy in our 60s! She dances for almost the entire 45 minutes!


Overall, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) based on the poetry of Baudelaire is an enjoyable, short performance but having more information available to the audience about Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal or Shakti’s vision for the performance would be useful.


Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe


The season of Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) based on the poetry of Baudelaire has now concluded. 


If you’re interested to know more about Les fleurs du mal there is a great website with all of the poems that are contained in the various editions of the book. Plus there are an impressive number of their translations. You can view them at https://fleursdumal.org/ 


Adelaide Fringe content 

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Interview with Eliane Morel about Carmen the cabaret here

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Les Commandos Percu Silence! is a must-see show this Adelaide Fringe – last chance tonight

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Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) based on the poetry of Baudelaire is a new dance show coming to Adelaide Fringe

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