This piece, choreographed by French choreographer, Boris Charmatz in 1996 is one of the most interesting dance works I’ve come across in a while… I find it interesting partly because the choreography and concept itself is great but there is this other factor that brings up certain questions that I like. So far as I can tell, it has been filmed/documented by two different directors. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this before, two films of one dance (there is so much and so little excess in the world of dance). However, watching two separate films of the same choreographic work was exciting and interesting and a little bit brilliant. But I’ll get to that later.
Before I continue, I should maybe add that there is nudity in this work. So if you tend to be offended by parts of the body that somehow cause a fair amount of controversy in our society and/or you are in a public place where looking at the genitalia of men and women on the interweb is generally disapproved of or expected to be done only in private, I suggest you skip this post as the following pictures and links to films have naked bits of people in them. If you are neither of these people, then by all means, read on.
The dance takes place on a three-tiered platform type structure. The three dancers, wearing only a white t-shirt, move in a very limited area, each on one level. Stacked up like blocks, it’s as though someone took a quite small theatre stage and squished it upwards. It is interesting to watch dance occupy vertical space, making an already three-dimensional art from, somehow gain an extra dimension. Or something. (Confusing thoughts linger off into how shape and time works again…) Anyway.
The height of the piece does something to the weight of the piece – there is fear. Fear of being naked, fear of falling, fear of isolation. (I’m pretty sure Boris Charmatz talks about this in an interview, but the interview is in French and I’m afraid I only understood about 35% of it). But there is also a type of distant calm. It is not only fear. The dancers are separated and isolated, the higher you go, the lonelier it seems to get. The dancer at the base alone, but surrounded by the audience (and the floor). The dancer on the middle level, unable to see the others above and below but still sandwhich-ed by his two friends, contained, safe in a bracket. The dancer on the top level, however – the girl, she is most vulnerable to the open sky, hardly witnessed by the audience maybe, furtherest from the ground. It’s terrifying and serious.
For such a limited space, the choreography is explosive and powerful. They are certainly throwing themselves through space, albeit it a small one. Full of a sort of pained energy, their bodies seem to bounce off walls that mostly are not really there. Regarding the nudity, I’m not quite sure what to say. After you get accustomed to the fact that they are half-naked, the nudity just is, I do not find it shocking, I just find it present. It is what they are. Perhaps after a while, you seem to pick up a intense vulnerability about their bodies despite their strength and agility, perhaps the nudity facilitates this vulnerability, perhaps that is why it is there. Perhaps not. There is one section when there is so much falling and banging, I was amazed not to see in bruises on those naked legs. (Are these sentences far too distracted?)
The first film I watched, entitled “Ascension” was directed by Alain Michard in 2000. You can watch it on Charmatz’s website or on Vimeo over here. And then I found the other film, directed by Luc Riolon in 1997 (also available on the website). Michard’s film seems to be more of a thing in and of itself, it seems quirky and warm, the footage has been gathered of a series of performances as the director seems to have travelled with the group, filming them (again, my French is not so hot, so I might have not got that right) and there seems to be a lightness, a type of humour in this film. Riolon’s film, however comes across more as documenting the work, the evening, the movement. It looks as though it was of one performance, there are sections slowed down, where the movement is the deeply focused on, the seriousness of it all is certainly present. It is done well and makes you crave for the live performance, the ‘original’. Michard’s film seemed to be able to stand on its own, original enough.
But it is no fun to compare the two films, what is more fun, is that they exist – independently of each other, but connected to each other by the same choreography. Watching both films was the most interesting way of watching the same piece differently. We get to do that a lot with live dance, watching the same choreography on different nights, with different casts or mistakes or audiences. Dance is always changing and different when it is live (this is the part where we love to talk about the ‘ephemerality’ of dance. How I detest that word). This different viewing of the same thing rarely gets to happen with film. And here it has happened perfectly. I love how art breeds more art. Like rabbits. (And almost every other animal).
Ok. So yes. If you are not too terrified of looking at penises and vaginas, you will most probably be able to see the beauty within this piece. You can watch both films on the website, which I’ve already linked you to.
And now for something completely different.
My best and most favourite dance Tumblr in the world – over here. Go look at it!