Cra­zy about Dance Bo­ris Char­matz

Art Press - - FESTIVAL D’AUTOMNE / CENTQUATRE-PARIS - (1) Li­bé­ra­tion, Oc­to­ber 10, 1997. (2) This ex­pe­riment led to a book, Je suis une école – Ex­pé­ri­men­ta­tion, art, pé­da­go­gie (Les Prai­ries or­di naires, 2009). Jé­rôme Pro­ven­çal is an art cri­tic.

With Fous de danse, a ma­jor cho­roe­gra­phic pro­ject en­ga­ging di­rect­ly with the street and pas­sers-by, Bo­ris Char­matz is wor­king on the reap­pro­pria­tion of pu­blic space and the re­cep­ti­ve­ness of the bo­dy.

Bo­ris Char­matz stor­med on­to the con­tem­po­ra­ry dance stage in the ear­ly 1990s when he was ba­re­ly twen­ty years old. Af­ter two ve­ry well re­cei­ved pieces ( A bras le corps and Les Dis­pa­rates) crea­ted in col­la­bo­ra­tion with Di­mi­tri Cham­blas, he be­gan to de­ve­lop his own cho­reo­gra­phic lan­guage, star­ting with Aatt...enen...tio­non (1996). Per­for­med on a three-le­vel me­tal scaf­fol­ding, this high­ly aty­pi­cal piece de­fied the laws of gra­vi­ty and da­red to go (al­most) bare with the same sel­fas­su­rance. In 1997 came Herses (une lente in­tro­duc­tion), a spi­cy piece in which five dan­cers, three men and two wo­men, na­ked but bea­ring a whole ar­tis­tic he­ri­tage, try out new ways of mo­ving and in­ter­t­wi­ning on an ex­tre­me­ly plain stage. Wri­ting in Li­bé­ra­tion, Ma­rie-Ch­ris­tine Vernay cal­led it “a ren­dez­vous with mo­der­ni­ty against conser­va­tive forces, in­clu­ding those wi­thin con­tem­po­ra­ry dance.”(1) Com­bi­ning crea­tive ener­gy and an ico­no­clas­tic spi­rit, Char­matz be­came a lea­ding fi­gure in the “non-dance” mo­ve­ment, a ra­ther ques­tio­nable term ap­plied in those years to a new ge­ne­ra­tion of cho­reo­gra­phers connec­ted by a com­mon re­jec­tion of thea­tri­ca­li­ty and a taste for ir­re­ve­rence. Af­ter that Char­matz conti­nued to upend dance norms and test its li­mits with hy­brid works like Eâtre-Elé­vi­sion ( (2002), an ins­tal­la­tion-dance for a single spec­ta­tor lying down on a pia­no. Since the start of this century he has been gi­ving great im­por­tance to the concept of trans­mis­sion, the re­laying of ideas and prac­tices to youn­ger people. One example is the ex­pe­riment he conduc­ted from 2002-04 with Le Bo­cal, a tra­ve­ling school with no per­ma­nent fa­ci­li­ty or tea­chers.(2) In 2009, he be­came di­rec­tor of the Centre Cho­ré­gra­phique Na­tio­nal (CCN) in Rennes, trans­for­ming it in­to what be­came cal­led a Mu­sée de la danse (Dance Mu­seum), a far more li­ving and in­no­va­tive ve­nue than its name might sug­gest. With non-nor­ma­tive ex­hi­bi­tions as well as non­nor­ma­tive dance, the idea was to re­con­cile crea­tion and trans­mis­sion by conti­nual­ly ex­pan­ding the breadth of pos­si­bi­li­ties.


The tru­ly un­pre­ce­den­ted Fous de danse pro­ject is ty­pi­cal of what the Mu­sée de la Danse seeks to do. This day­long dance event “brings to­ge­ther, in a single event, va­rious ex­pe­ri­men­tal ef­forts car­ried out by the mu­seum, par­ti­cu­lar­ly ex­hi­bi­tions where the dan­cer as­sumes dif­ferent roles with dif­ferent sta­tuses (per­for­mer, guide, tea­cher, coach, etc.). Some of the pro­cesses ac­ti­va­ted in the ex­hi­bi­tions will be ta­ken up on a large scale in Fous de danse,” Char­matz ex­plains. The pro­ject takes its title from a French dance ma­ga­zine pu­bli­shed in the 1980s by Édi­tions Au­tre­ment. Iden­ti­fying the main ini­tia­tives in the field of dance and of­fe­ring ana­ly­ti­cal texts (by Lau­rence Louppe for example), this re­view, of which Char­matz was an avid rea­der, sought to com­bine the po­pu­lar and the scho­lar­ly ap­proaches, prac­tice and theo­ry, in a dy­na­mic dia­lec­tic si­mi­lar to what would la­ter mark the en­dea­vors of the Mu­sée de la Danse’s di­rec­tor. The pro­ject’s title (trans­la­table as “Cra­zy

About Dance” or “Dance Cra­zies”) ex­presses not on­ly a huge thirst for ex­cess but al­so a less ex­pli­cit de­sire to re-en­chant con­tem­po­ra­ry pu­blic spaces by ba­ni­shing the an­xie­ty that has in­fu­sed them since the bloo­dy ter­ro­rist at­tacks in France that be­gan with the Char­lie Heb­do at­tack on Ja­nua­ry 7, 2015. Equal­ly at the heart of danse de nuit (2016), for example, this year­ning to reap­pro­priate pu­blic spaces for art is an es­sen­tial part of Char­matz’s work to­day. “Like ma­ny people, I was ve­ry mar­ked by the ci­ti­zens’ as­sem­blies that have pro­li­fe­ra­ted in France and el­sew­here,” he says, spea­king of the Nuit De­bout and Oc­cu­py mo­ve­ments, among others. “Ra­ther than di­rect­ly ta­king part in them, I wan­ted the Mu­sée de la Danse to find al­ter­na­tive forms of ga­the­rings where the me­dium would be not speech but dance. Mad­ness is not, strict­ly spea­king, a com­ponent part of Fous de danse. The in­ten­tion was ab­so­lu­te­ly not to imi­tate in­sa­ni­ty but to break with the ra­tio­na­li­ty that go­verns pu­blic ve­nues and bring in­to them a form of ar­tis­tic ex­pres­sion that passes through the bo­dy and makes the par­ti­ci­pa­ting bo­dies more per­meable to each other.”


While this pro­ject is a come-one-come-all oc­ca­sion, it does not seek consen­sus at any price and is pi­cky about the dance forms it in­cludes. It’s not a dance fes­ti­val like France’s an­nual June 21 Fête de la Mu­sique, which in­cludes ma­ny ama­teurs with wi­de­ly va­ried skill sets. Ra­ther, it is ar­tis­ti­cal­ly exigent, which means, among other things, that there is no at­tempt to le­vel down by ho­mo­ge­ni­zing dif­ferent kinds of dance; it in­cludes some kinds that do not ne­ces­sa­ri­ly lend them­selves to group par­ti­ci­pa­tion or are less ac­ces­sible than others. The point is to al­low the pu­blic to tra­verse the ma­ny states of dance. There are three de­ter­mi­nate and concor­dant prin­ciples at work here: ho­ri­zon­ta­li­ty, trans­ver­sa­li­ty and free ad­mis­sion. Ho­ri­zon­ta­li­ty means that there are no stages and no rows of seats, brea­king the so-cal­led fourth wall to bring about a kind of dance ral­ly where eve­ryone can free­ly ex­press them­selves. This sug­gests a bo­dy-ba­sed form of de­mo­cra­tic ex­pres­sion. Trans­ver­sa­li­ty al­lows the emer­gence of a single grand dance las­ting se­ve­ral hours, with high­ly va­ried com­po­nents, both ama­teur and pro­fes­sio­nal, such as col­lec­tive dances, so­los, so­cial dances, tra­di­tio­nal dances, ur­ban dance and so on. Free ad­mis­sion is ob­vious­ly im­por­tant to make this event ac­ces­sible to eve­ryone, with no dis­cri­mi­na­tion of any kind. Af­ter two such dance days in Rennes (2015 and 2016), one in Brest (May 2017) and one in Ber­lin (Sep­tem­ber 2017), Fous de danse is ta­king place at the Cent­quatre in Pa­ris on Oc­to­ber 1, 2017 as part of the New Set­tings pro­gram. The im­po­sing (plu­ri-) cul­tu­ral es­ta­blish­ment seems per­fect­ly sui­table for this pro­ject in that it is meant to be a mixer in eve­ry sense of the word, ful­ly alive and li­te­ral­ly as open to the world as pos­sible, with a ma­jor por­tion of its spaces free­ly ac­ces­sible for the prac­tice of ac­ti­vi­ties such as clas­sic dance, hip-hop, thea­ter, etc. For ten hours, from noon to 10 pm, there will be a stea­dy rhythm of ce­le­bra­tion, from a col­lec­tive warm-up to a fes­tive dan­ce­floor, and in bet­ween Ro­man-Pho­to (Gra­phic Novel), cho­reo­gra­phed by Maud Le Pla­dec and Anne-Ka­rine Les­cop, with eigh­teen ama­teur dances from Rennes; Le­vée, a col­lec­tive dance or­ches­tra­ted by Char­matz (ba­sed on his ter­ri­fic pièce Le­vée des conflits); Ca­li­co Min­gling, a piece by Lu­cin­da Childs crea­ted by her niece Ruth Childs; re­per­to­ry dances in­ter­pre­ted by stu­dents of the P.A.R.T.S per­for­ming arts school in Brus­sels; a giant Soul Train line dance; ur­ban dances and tra­di­tio­nal dances from Brit­ta­ny. Yet what makes Fous de danse unique is not just the pro­gram­ming but al­so its mis­sion as a my­riad of unique pro­jects shif­ting from one world to ano­ther with no tran­si­tion or hie­rar­chy. “In a way, this pro­ject has gone beyond us,” Char­mitz ad­mits. “At any rate, it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s an in­vi­ta­tion to a whole ci­ty.”

Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff

Bo­ris Char­matz Né en 1973. Vit et tra­vaille à Rennes. 2010 Le­vée des conflits, pièce pour 24 dan­seurs 2011 en­fant, créa­tion pour la cour d’hon­neur du Pa­lais des Papes, Avi­gnon 2014 Man­ger, créa­tion à la Ruhr­trien­nale - In­ter­na­tio­nal Fes­ti­val of the Arts 2014 2016 danse de nuit, créa­tion à La Bâ­tie-Fes­ti­val de Ge­nève (New Set­tings #6)

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