Six dancers plunge into an impish game where they follow the dictates of a quirky musical score, giving shape to its tiniest details and thus rendering the inaudible visible.
The king is dead and the court jesters are dancing to a loud concerto. The rules underlying their frolics? Miming the slightest notes, accents, rhythms and false notes in the music, even if it means dancing upside down. By giving shape to the “music” of their idiosyncratic, parallel score, they allow the spectator to hear the inaudible.
With this surprising piece, the Swiss choreographer Thomas Hauert takes his inspiration from “mickey-mousing”, a film technique where each element of the soundtrack emphasizes the action on screen. Here that technique is turned upside down, creating an extravagant choreography where each movement is generated by a sound. The six performers embody the colourful, spirited jazz of George Gershwin, presenting it in contrast to the dark, grotesque sound designs of contemporary composer Mauro Lanza. In an adroit mélange of mastery and improvisation, the dancers make child’s play of the compositions, constantly confounding the expectations of the audience. A disconcerting tour de force that is loads of fun – a true delight!
Produced by ZOO/Thomas Hauert
Concept and direction Thomas Hauert
Created and performed by Fabian Barba + Thomas Hauert + Liz Kinoshita + Sarah Ludi (replacing Albert Quesada) + Gabriel Schenker + Mat Voorter
Original music George Gershwin + Mauro Lanza
Music collage Thomas Hauert
Lighting design Bert Van Dijck
Costume design Chevalier-Masson
Collaborator to music informatics (IRCAM) Martin Antiphon
Sound design Bart Celis
Co-produced by Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels) + Charleroi Danses – Centre chorégraphique de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles + La Bâtie – Festival de Genève + PACT Zollverein (Essen) + CDC Atelier de Paris-Carolyn Carlson + IRCAM – Centre Pompidou (Paris) + Théâtre Sévelin 36 (Lausanne) + Centre chorégraphique national de Rillieux-la-Pape – direction Yuval Pick
With the support of Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles – Service de la danse + Pro Helvetia – Fondation suisse pour la culture (Zurich) + Loterie Nationale + Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie + Ein Kulturengagement des Lotterie – Fonds des Kantons Solothurn + Wallonie-Bruxelles International + Wallonie-Bruxelles Théâtre / Danse – Studio Charleroi Danses / La Raffinerie (Brussels) + Grand Studio (Brussels) + Centre chorégraphique national de Rillieux-la-Pape – direction Yuval Pick
Written by Mylène Joly
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Programme commun, Lausanne, on March 18, 2016
Thomas Hauert (Brussels) ZOO/Thomas Hauert
Swiss choreographer Thomas Hauert studied contemporary dance at the Rotterdam Dance Academy in Holland.
He then moved to Brussels, where he collaborated with renowned artists such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Pierre Droulers and David Zambrano before founding his own company, ZOO/Thomas Hauert in 1997. The following year he created Cows in Space, which won two awards at the Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in France and went on to much acclaim in Europe and Asia, marking the beginnings of his choreographic research aimed at enhancing the possibilities of individual and ensemble movement.
Thomas Hauert’s style is characterized by a complex approach to movement, with the choreography created in conjunction with the dancers in his company, most of whom have worked with him for many years. His work in the studio gradually takes shape around structured improvisations, with the final stage performance marked by great tension between freedom and constraint, requiring of the dancers attentiveness and spontaneity. With inaudible (2016) he explores once again the relation between dance and music, a theme pursued in many of his works, notably Jetzt (2000), Accords (2008) and the 2015 piece (sweet)(bitter). He teaches his methods on a regular basis at the renowned P.A.R.T.S. school in Brussels, and is often asked to give master classes in many different countries and to create works for other companies. He was invited to Canada by the Toronto Dance Company to choreograph Pond Skaters (2013), which was nominated that year for the prestigious Dora Awards.
Your choreography is based on a structured improvisation technique that you have developed over the years and indeed, one often wonders where the choreography ends and the improvisation begins. How do you work with dancers to achieve such fluidity?
Ever since ZOO was founded, each new work has meant inventing creative procedures and improv techniques aimed at going beyond our habits of movement. I want above all to keep the element of improvisation onstage, because it is the only way to achieve the complexity so characteristic of our shows. It triggers the body to be open to another presence, another concentration, which to me is quite lovely to see.
For inaudible, no steps were written down or predetermined beforehand. There are, of course, a number of constraints, beginning with those imposed by the score, but none of the movement is set or prearranged. We have practised improvisation extensively, based on the principle of several bodies reacting to each other, thus creating ensemble movement. Our model is a swarm of bees, a school of fish or a flock of birds, a form that allows for random, variable divergence, but always maintains an undivided, organic movement.
In inaudible different interpretations of George Gershwin’s Concerto in F (1925) are featured, as well as Mauro Lanza’s Ludus de Morte Regis (2013). What do you hope to have emerged from that collage of those two pieces of music
Gershwin included many influences in that piece, presenting a fusion of jazz, music hall, klezmer, American folksong and of course classical music. Often snubbed, Gershwin impudently offended the good taste imposed by the cultural establishment of the day. On the other hand, Lanza’s piece was created for 28 singers, toys and electronic instruments. The title of the piece can be translated as the Death of the King Game, and was inspired by the assassination in 1900 of one of the last kings of Italy. In his defence the murderer stated, “I did not kill Umberto. I killed the king; I killed a principle.” Thus a king is someone who claims to be above his subjects.
I thought it would be interesting to work with these two pieces of music, given that both tend to shake up hierarchies, the agreed order of values and powers. I too like to call into question the existing structures in the small world of European contemporary dance.
From that perspective, I drew my inspiration from mickey-mousing, going against the unwritten rule that one shouldn’t dance “to music”. In the world of cinema, mickey-mousing is a term used to describe a film score that underlines every physical movement of the action on screen. The term is also used in dance, but to describe the opposite practice of a movement that closely follows the music.
Your work reveals a desire to have the body fully merge with the music, with the materiality of sound. How have you tried to express music in the body?
To begin with, we listened to a lot of music – several recordings, adaptations and various interpretations. We wanted to follow each melodic line, to isolate each instrument in the orchestra, to listen to the rhythm of the piano, etc.
We studied the score note by note, and then step by step. Although it is an impossible task, we wanted to have each note be visible in the dance, to be represented somewhere in the body. It is movement, after all, that is the source of sound.
Chevalier Masson’s costumes are slightly unusual, as they perturb our perception of the body. Were you trying to accentuate something grotesque in the choreography?
Eric Chevalier and Anne Masson have been designing our costumes for several years. They have an incredible imagination as regards textures, shapes and colours. Their contribution in inaudible is a direct continuation of the choreography, emphasizing something grotesque that is in the dance and also in the music. The strange aspect of the costumes also highlights the artificial nature of what is happening onstage.
As performers we did not step by chance from the street onto the stage, suddenly facing spectators very much like us in our everyday lives. That is another taboo in contemporary dance, refusing to acknowledge the artifice of performance as soon as we step onstage. Moreover, the costumes adds a very sensual dimension, and I prefer to reach out to the spectator with an approach that is more sensual than intellectual.
« La puissance de ce groupe permet d’abolir le quatrième mur et d’inclure le public dans cette partition renversante. Exceptionnel. »
Fanny Brancourt, TheArtChemists.com, 2016-06-15
« Une pièce qu’il est aisé de qualifier : vive, intelligente, ludique, drôle, dense, jouissive, immédiate, intemporelle… »
Nathalie Yokel, Ballroom-revue.net, 2016-06-10
« Un moment de joie pure qui est ici partagé dans le jeu proposé aux spectateurs, pris à partie par les danseurs dans leurs tentatives d’interprétation ludique, parfois littérale, toujours espiègle. »
Les Inrockuptibles, 2016-05-25
« Un feu d’artifice de musique et de danse où le rire est aussi le bienvenu. »
J.-M. W., Le soir, 2016-05-04