As a result of the partnership between JUNE EVENTS and the association Anacrouse-Université Paris 8, the Atelier de Paris / CDCN has proposed several students the opportunity to write an article, a snapshot on the performance of their choice during the festival. Read below for more...
A zoom on…
Julie Nioche’s Nos Amours by M.M.
There is first only a back appearing in the twilight of the dawn of the show. Her skin is covered in drawings, maybe scars, plants, or organs: her interior splayed on her skin, one that starts to move and starts to be taken by isolated energies. A beat, a pulse. It is soft and precise like the tapping of hands on the absent harpsichord that hums the Goldberg variations a capella throughout the performance. A vast circle of light, hanging above the stage, lights her body just as it transforms it to shadows, only to swallow her again.
As Bach’s work is sung, a strange dance is deployed, one moved by a permanent game between tension and release, between virtuosity and indifference, mastery and laisser-faire. Because Sabine Macer asked me before the show what the title evoked in me, I knew the piece was haunted by these loves: mine and yours, those of dancing bodies across the plateaued space, moved by an infinite force that displaces as well as abandons certain parts, like a string of comets. At times it’s the head that rolls, brought about by the movement, limbs projected far away from the center, breasts trembling. The body falls in the middle of the circle, then proceeds to drag on the floor, as if suddenly superbly unable to hold itself up. The floating light helps, this energetic whirlwind intoxicates me, it’s as if I also am moving, I become these spots of mobility drawn on her bust, that already start to disappear as they come into contact with the floor and the sweat starts to drip. Our loves: those that we have in common.
I watch the other person, who is standing at the back of the stage, in contrast, standing and almost immobile. I thought she was only to be seen, but then she starts to control the movements of the large circle of light as if it were a giant puppet. And as it happens, on a slower variation, the body of the dancer is attached to the circle that lifts her slowly until…Suspended: Breathe held. Oppositions from high to low, stretching. It is almost magic. Our loves: those that are, in French, because they are plural, feminine.
Julie Nioche’s dance doesn’t cheat. The balances are imbalances. Standing on one foot, the chest bustles forward, caught by the ground, and then straightens up. The standing leg trembles, the other wandering nervously in the space. This desperate will to find a space of stability creates a sense of vertigo, renders visible the force of gravity to which the dancing body is submissive, and which can become fragile at any moment, shaken by the precarity of its vertical station surrounded by all the invisible forces that pull it towards the bottom. The body is the last resistance, at the periphery of the circle of light, holding out against this wild desire to fall. Yet, it starts again: as if in a trance, the body must go again, run, dance, raise itself in the air to know it is possible to fall again. In this dance, there is no end point: it is deployed and could always begin again, if only exhaustion didn’t take its toll on the body and the music didn’t end. According to the legend, the Bach’s variations were written to cure the count Kewserling’s episodes of insomnia: Julie Nioche chooses a spectrum of energies in which, at a distance of our bodies, the traces left by our loves in our bodies are woken up sensually and impressively.
A zoom on…
Cosima Grand’s ctrl-v (LP) by Annabelle Pirlot
In the cold light and the deserted, zany scenery of ctrl-v, two women act on stage. They face us but don’t seem to pay any mind to us. They have the intelligence to assume their doll–like face without any particular mannerism, until this partial reality is displaced and we forget it. They take us back to the mocking images of athletes, of robotic dolls, underground airline hostesses, average users of daily digital technologies, futurists of the current 70s, of rockers in tennis shoes, of crafty women-children… But they don’t jump incoherently from one to another, all these figures they seem to evoke have the ability to coexist, to be contained and make sense in a concentrated temporality.
From the beginning of the piece they each hold a microphone with which they declare with frankness and simplicity, “in a voice soft and calm”, that they will ultimately hold the piece up to their abilities in the way they see fit. In working to transgress stereotypes still ever-present and dominant around femininity and what a woman must do as an artist, as a dancer/choreographer.
They repeat in insisting without drowning in obstinacy, pronouncing clearly what they have to tell us, transforming their textual material into sonar poetry, following the drumming without being subject to it, music-lovers/musicians in their own way.
They also take their leeway in the back of the space, precisely at the moment when the audience may need more depth.
I think to myself as I watch them that they are confronting a vast subject with a great deal of humility, without diminishing themselves. They act without rest, playing just as much with materials that seem to please them as with the expectations we could have for them. Moving without fear nor heroism to the edge of their limits, deforming their contours, without imposing an esthetic of effort or of success.
Cosima Grand, as a choreographer, seems to have given a beautiful place to her team, and particularly to Milena Keller who accompanies her on stage, in a powerful complicity that never gets lost in the fusion. I have no doubt in the intelligence and sensibility of this performance proposal. They earned my trust in their commitment, without fading into solemnness. ctrl-v (lp) is the rich sample of an enormous potential.
The starting point is a document. A space of encounter. To cut at one’s turn. Try to undo the line. Passing through the myth of “tarantulism” to enter in a trance. Forget the object.
It doesn’t consist of reclaiming the worker’s gest, of assimilating it as choreographic material, but it consists in extracting the historical dimension to explore the different modalities of a feminine rite. « Tarantulism » is in fact a sickness which supposedly affected the female seamstresses in southern Italy. These women then abandoned themselves to the tarantella after being « bitten »by the tarantulas residing in their textiles.
The spectator is invited to watch three short filmed objects, a contextualization or entryway to the material of Alexander Roccoli’s piece, which is then interpreted by three dancers, one electro-acoustic composer and one light director, in order to first understand the contemporary myth and that which underlies.
The first proposes an evolving presentation, from the textile workshop to the stage. The sneaker-wearing foot rises, and then slams down mechanically towards the floor. The hand wanders over the strings as the camera voyages between the installations of the textile work, whether it consists of the perception of the worker or of a projected aesthetic that becomes a trance due to the alienation of work. Techno. Red flash and dance. (The images are taken from the second piece presented by Roccoli at June Events, longing.) An interview follows, of a worker now retired that relates the different aspects of her work. The historical dimension starts to take shape. The spectator can at the same time identify with and project themselves in her testimony. The hand, her own, then passes over the table, as if handling the textile. A memory. A gest. In the bus, I’d hear « one would say it (her hand) was dancing ! ». Yet, in accounting for the present audience, the horizon of the worker is far, and the laughs remind us again of an experience heard, of grandparents and great grandparents. Ah where is my cane ! And then we bring the audience to the oven, but I don’t know why. The interview then ends on the phrase « and then it closed ». The end of textile workshops, like the end of a beautiful story, when it’s here that it all could’ve begun. The voice of the Italian documentary maker then takes over. The distance takes then next step because the « tarantulism » is taken on in the perspective of the change from a farmer’s world to an industrial one. A change still taking place, proven by the example in 1996 of a 23-year-old worker who was transferred to a hospital in Milan because her presupposed bite worsened, a bite caused by a tarantula. It was witnessed, that before, it could’ve been healed by dance and music. The documentary maker clarifies that this rite was originally initiated between women, to transgress both social and familial constraints. To prepare they used a fatty plant that produces little blue flowers to lubricate the eyes and the mammary.
I wish to echo this intention : Frantz Fanon condemned this sort of dance in his book The wretched of the Earth in the chapter « On Violence ». In fact, these dances in a circle are for him a medium of evacuation from the potential violence present in the colonized (a post-colonial context can be added to gender studies, and class struggle, the worker being at the same time a woman and at the bottom of the social hierarchy.) This violence is then « channeled, transformed, vanished », the dance avoids the « confrontations that are very real and very close »in « tiring its affectivity » : « the circle of the dance is a permissive circle » that « protects and authorizes ».
It seems then that Alexander Roccoli did not make the choice of this piece in a political dimension, nor did he directly use his documentary material to recompose what a witch’s Sabbath evokes, cadenced by the actuation of the textile workers, put into music by Deena Abdelwahed. The expression, the presence of the dancers participates in a direct communication intended to the spectators, stronger even in the front of the stage. If the dancers aren’t necessarily lubricating their eyes, their intention is very calm, and holds no trace of a demonstration of madness. The contextualization of this piece could also partly serve the gestual material of a worker that is not active here, or at least in an imaginary or fantasized perspective in defense of the irrationality proper to a myth. The manipulation of codes is then turned towards this attempt to appropriate the myth of tarantulism. The workers are sublime in their youthful bodies and the dancers are vigorous, even though they still conserve certain moments of blockage, a rigidity in their head, the leg that hangs, closing. All the while, the workers also have the right to be dancers. Their signature: the singularity of each one’s gaze, at the same time plural and turned in one direction. The audience without mediation. Neither embarrassment, nor fixed dignity. Enveloped in a mystery that surrounds the dance (Laban’s Strange World).
The trance is thus constructed in a process, in a conducting line made of ruptures, of variable rhythms, that opens with a duo faithful to a “classical” aesthetic, notably connoted by the quality of the steps and the piano accompaniment, as if freely inspired by the traditional tarantella to welcome the spectator on a terrain known and expected by them.
The steps become twists, risk takers. From the bright day of light we descend into obscurity. They dance their textile career. Sliding, a repeated and regulated succession, the slipping of string, and detanglement.
Black. A third dancer appears in the back of the stage, immobile. She comes forward to the front of the stage, arms raised. The séance begins. She opens with a sideways march facing front, steps that cross, gaze facing forward, full of strength. The crossing of the steps progressively constrains, fails.
The three join each other. The Sabbath ceremony may begin. Throw the heads! Sonar knives shake, plant, and cut. Unison. Bang, Throw! Celebrate.
Dressed in black, with squares of skin.
Lost in the soot, watching what surrounds them, looking for a way out. The memory of a labor. Languishing body.
Trance, then nothing. Everything is heavy, rested.
Murmurs from Deena in the half-light. Murmurs of women. The spectator also in the heat, feels the loaded air, crushed from the summit of the head by the suffocating silence, life breathed through the mouth and the tongue that speaks in the hollow of their ear.
The life of women. The secrets of the gynaeceum within. They confide in each other, activate themselves individually and together. The voices intertwine.
A song that breathes, that keeps quiet. Respiration also. On her stomach, the spider.
She advances with precaution, dislocates, becomes a rigid human from head to foot, advances on her back.
Battle. Forming a circle of improvisation around her. The spider contaminates the others. Trance. Repetitive. Theme and variation. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Here, there, and then there, and again there.
Once again the work weaves the rhythm. They weave themselves. Linked, delinked, opening of arms to come back through. With Techno.
The Sabbath takes on another temporality. Slowed down. Dilation.
The techno comes back.
A simple song accelerates. The light director and the musician. They also dance. To their work. Speak, speak not. Isolations. Blockage. The celebration begins again.
The bells ring. The textile work responds in echo. Stop. Rhythm inside the recomposed body. The interweaving of the emerging chair, growing. A head. A buttock in the light. Yes, light between the legs. The sexual Sabbath. The bodies agitate each other, very fast.
The light gets closer, the eye voyeur of the spectators. From the body without organs comes, by the buttocks, the second spider, turned over on its back. The bite infused all the skin. Overflows. Passing through the eyes.
Line of dance.
A traditional Italian song takes them in their own rhythm to a farandole. The gaze of the audience.