A celebration of the beating pulse of life, bang bang tests the body’s resistance to being airborne – at the risk of falling.
In this new solo Manuel Roque experiences the full impact of a body thrown far beyond its limits. In Data (FTA, 2015) he revealed with force and lyricism the contortions involved in having the body stand up and maintain its balance, and here he presents a strange, ecstatic composition on jumping. A celebration of the beating pulse of life, bang bang tests the body’s resistance to being airborne – at the risk of falling.
Playing with the history of dance, jumping as portrayed here is not a pursuit of spectacular elevation. He unrelentingly strikes the floor as though he can’t stop bouncing, rebounding, vibrating. In choreography that reveals humanity in all its imperfection, he strives for full mastery of his movements, giving rise to a spirited yet elusive dance, a veritable quest for transcendence where virtuosity is gradually undermined by flaws and weaknesses. Cracks and gaps appear in the body undergoing this test of endurance, and thus exhaustion arises from the universal experience of vulnerability.
Produced by Cie Manuel Roque
Choreographed and performed by Manuel Roque
Rehearsals and artistic advisors Sophie Corriveau + Lucie Vigneault
Dramaturgy Peter James
Costume and set design Marilène Bastien
Lighting design Marc Parent
Soundtrack Manuel Roque
Music excerpts Frédéric Chopin + Claude Debussy + Merzbow + Tino Rossi + 2001, l’Odyssée de l’espace by Stanley Kubrick + Solaris by Andreï Tarkovski
Production, technical and set manager Judith Allen
Photo Marilène Bastien
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques
With the support of La Fabrik (Postdam) + Maison de la culture Frontenac + Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique + Théâtre Hector-Charland (L’Assomption) + Les Subsistances (Lyon) + Agora de la danse
Presented in association with Théâtre Prospero
Written by Mylène Joly
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Subsistances, Lyon, on March 30, 2017
Manuel Roque (Montreal) Cie Manuel Roque
Manuel Roque has established a position in Quebec dance as one of its most charismatic and eclectic performers.
After multidisciplinary studies in piano, theatre and the circus arts, he plunged into the world of dance and promptly began performing for choreographers with strong and very diverse signature styles, including Paul-André Fortier, Sylvain Émard, Marie Chouinard and Peter James, to name but a few. While continuing to work on circus collaborations and to pursue his career as a dancer and a teacher, he then turned his hand to choreography.
He won over audiences with his piece RAW-me, receiving several prizes at Festival Vue sur la Relève in 2011. As apparent in Ne meurs pas tout de suite, on nous regarde (2012), Projet in situ (2013), 4-OR (2015) and Crazy Dance (2016), his style is imbued with colourful theatricality and rigorous physicality. First presented in 2014, Data (FTA, 2015) firmly established his choreographic style, a blend of stripped-down aesthetics and virtuoso movement.
Invited to take part in the international artistic residency Migrant Bodies in 2014-15, he created Black Matter, a solo performed entirely in the dark, echoing the plight of migrants and refugees. From one project to the next, he is an artist who constantly dares to leap into the unknown, fully assuming the risks inherent in perpetually reinventing his art.
You have danced for choreographers with strong and highly contrasting styles. How did you create your own artistic approach after championing those of other artists?
My basic artistic process was established during the creation of Data. I wanted to create, but also wanted to distinguish what was inherently my own from what I had absorbed performing for others. It leaves its mark, all those traces of working with Marie Chouinard, Sylvain Émard and others. I went into the studio just to move – movement with no pressing need or end result in sight. I needed to purge that heritage so that I could then appropriate it. Of course, it’s easy to see signs of certain choreographers in my dancing, but they are part of me and I’m at peace with that.
At any rate, we are influenced by the people with whom we share our lives. What I’m doing now with bang bang also reflects the times. Choreography inspired by repeated movements is a bit like a new Sacre du printemps! There are pieces featuring jumps in the repertoires of many contemporary dance artists, and initially I hesitated to go that route for that very reason.
On the other hand, if you approach things that way you’ll never create anything, the assumption being that everything’s been done, everything’s already been invented. It’s not a question of the jumps per se, but of what I do with them.
The diverse range of your projects illustrates your fondness for taking risks with each new piece. On another level, you also place yourself in danger as a performer in this work by taking on what appears to be impossible. Since bang bang is tightly choreographed, is there room for improvisation?
I now have a certain mastery of the piece that allows to take certain liberties, for I don’t want the performance to hypnotize the spectator. It’s up to me to preserve a very real experience as regards what is happening onstage.
It’s important to stay attuned to the audience while dancing, to display my desire to succeed, to show what I can do and, at the same time, to portray clumsiness and failure. For me, the foundation of this piece are the flaws and weaknesses. That paradox is apparent in the fact that I am both choreographer and performer. My dancer’s reflexes react to my desires as a choreographer and a spectator.
There is real effort in this show – sweat and pain and pleasure as well, but of course I’m also performing. Thus some smiles are rehearsed, are written into the dance score. The entire piece unfolds with that duality. On the one hand there is a reality I portray and, on the other hand, the fact that I do one show after another and must avoid injury. Sharing reality while being onstage is somewhat utopian.
You present the piece as the desire for a certain loss of self, whereas a catch phrase of the era is to be yourself. Even though dance appears to be an excellent place for ecstasy or rapture, aren’t there a thousand obstacles to overcome before that can happen?
That question of ecstasy is one of the big issues of bang bang, as it cannot be reached each and every time, only in small moments. The most important thing perhaps is to try to get there, to constantly pursue paths that might lead there. I still have difficulty expressing in words that desire to achieve a sort of disappearance or surrender of self.
I’m the only thing to see in a black box space. What occurs is that we no longer see the person after a time; we perceive only matter that moved for a while with, of course, all sorts of flaws and emotions. What I aspire to is an obliteration of something human; I want something of the self be erased at some point.
We live in an era where we are compelled to show, to flaunt, to express ourselves, a time when communications have been blown all out of proportion. Given that state of affairs, I find anonymity and disappearance to be more interesting, more sensible. That’s a driving force in this piece – how can I dance yet disappear at the same time?
“A deeply felt and powerful performance, and [Manuel Roque’s] stage charisma is readily evident.”
Philip Szporer, The Dance Current, 2015-01-05, about Data
« La grande force de Data réside dans le talent d’interprète de Roque, tout simplement exceptionnel. »
Iris Gagnon Paradis, La Presse, 2015-06-02, about Data
« Une écriture originale, une performance saisissante: on présente Manuel Roque comme une étoile montante de la jeune scène montréalaise. Mais il est, déjà, une Étoile tout court ! »
Michelle Chanonat, Jeu, 2015-06-01, about Data
« Une œuvre aussi grotesque que sublime, un solo d’une maturité admirable. »
Christian St Pierre, Le Devoir, 2014-09-05, about Data