L’affadissement du merveilleux
In her sublime new piece, the choreographer Catherine Gaudet probes the life force. An ode to the beauty of being alive, right up to death. Breathtaking.
Endless rounds, circles and loops become cosmic and haunting rituals. Five dancers advance and retreat, staring straight at the audience, their hypnotic presence front and centre, prisoners of unremitting cycles, swept along by the wheel of time. Mutants forever starting over, they are transformed in unison into a slow forward march, part trance and part infernal whirling and twirling.
In her new clean-lined geometric piece, the choreographer Catherine Gaudet abandons her study of inner conflicts to probe the life force. A sampling of humanity from its atomic beginnings to its final heartbeat, L’affadissement du merveilleux investigates the mystery of existence by means of repeated movement, with stultifying routine transformed into bedazzlement. Fluid and ecstatic, this obsessive journey evokes the sacred as well as its resurgence in our blasé rites. An ode to the beauty of being alive, right up to death. Breathtaking.
Produced by Lorganisme
Choreographed by Catherine Gaudet
Performed by Dany Desjardins + Francis Ducharme + Caroline Gravel + Leïla Mailly + James Phillips
Music Antoine Berthiaume
Costume Design Max-Otto Fauteux
Dramaturgical Assistant and Rehearsal Director Sophie Michaud
Lighting Design Alexandre Pilon-Guay
Technical Director and Stage Manager François Marceau
Technical Director (Creation) Olivier Chopinet
Intern Performer Marie-Philippe Santerre
Production Director Dominique Bouchard
Coproduction Agora de la danse + Centre chorégraphique national de Tours
Creative residencies Agora de la danse + Centre chorégraphique national de Tours + Centre de Création O Vertigo + Compagnie Marie Chouinard + Danse à la carte + École de danse Louise Lapierre + Maison de la culture Frontenac
Presented in association with Théâtre Rouge du Conservatoire
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Agora de la danse, on September 26, 2018
Catherine Gaudet (Montreal) Lorganisme
A graduate of the UQAM dance program, Catherine Gaudet began her career as a dancer working for various choreographers before creating her first piece in 2004.
She made her mark over the next two years with Grosse fatigue, which won a choreography award in Denmark, and then L’arnaque. Renowned for a strong, very theatrical style tinged with the absurd, dark humour and a touch of the subconscious, she created a number of short form works that have been presented in Quebec, France, Denmark and Belgium. In 2012 she further explored the human psyche with Je suis un autre, where she stripped the veneer of social façade to reveal the ambiguity of people trapped by their contradictions.
Presented at the FTA in 2014, Au sein des plus raides vertus is rooted in emotion as it dissects our psychic complexity through impressive physicality. In 2016 she co-created with Jérémie Niel La très excellente et lamentable tragédie de Roméo et Juliette, a piece that combines dance and theatre.
The presentation of Tout ce qui va revient as part of La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines in March 2018 concluded a cycle of works focused on human relations and their shortcomings. With L’affadissement du merveilleux, Gaudet examines cycles as a universal structure, dispensing with the individual in order to pursue an existential quest.
In this laconic geometric study of the circular form—spatial, internal, instinctual—she probes the thirst for grandeur and for a connection to what is beyond our understanding. Catherine Gaudet is a founding member and co-artistic director of the company Lorganisme, an associate artist at DLD-Daniel Léveillé Danse since 2018 and a member of the dance association Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique.
How is this piece, more austere than your previous works, a continuation of your artistic approach?
It is a clear break in terms of both form and content. While a quest for the absolute was part of the Au sein des plus raides vertus quartet, it is also present here but in more lucid fashion. I’ve always been interested in the hidden aspects of humanity, its dark side, the unspoken, our unconscious aspects, but this time my interest moves away from man to focus on existence itself, the mystery of life.
The piece is nourished by a fascination for the endless cycles of the universe, cycles that are restrictive yet also miraculous. When creating the piece, I was utterly fascinated by the image of the circle. While I was used to seeing dancers in the studio creating a mixture of forms and figures as they move, this time I was incapable of seeing them that way. I wanted them to form clear figures, a line that advances and retreats, or a circular shape, and I also wanted all of them to be doing the same thing. It got to the point where I could no longer distinguish bodies; the individual no longer interested me.
Whereas previously I had plunged into relational dynamics and the complex nature of self-discovery and encounters with others, here I wanted to work on shared movement, to erase the dancers’ individual tics and differentiations so that they are propelled by a force greater than themselves. I worked on geometric figures and let each dancer progress at his or her own pace.
The dancers are driven by images, memories, forces, but never give in to emotion. They are like oracles, conduits for the forces of the universe, united in a common struggle. They integrate circularity into their bodies through shared repetitive movement, achieving a form of ritual that is close to a state of trance, of possession. The dancers are caught within the cycle, creating rituals that place them in a meditative state, shaking off the numbing grind of the everyday.
In its repetition and its circularity, the piece conveys a mood that is both alienating and inspiring. How did you arrive at that duality of the cycle?
Repeating the same movements is a way of organizing our chaos. There is something fascinating about the unceasing cycle of biology and the seasons, but also the infernal dimension of being unable to avoid that eternal cycle of birth, death, renewal. The piece creates tension between those two extremes. As it unfolds, a beauty emerges from the constraints, something close to ritual. It’s as though creatures that evolve in the cycle transform it and, given that they are caught within it, use it to rise to something greater.
Slow progression is a constant theme in my choreography. I’m fascinated by kaleidoscopic movements and the uninterrupted flow of sensations that are transformed, becoming new figures. I used to treat them as a fluctuation of the multiple identities inherent in each of us, but here the cycle reflects the multiplicity of life. A periodic table represents the essence of life, then humans appear and we are in the present.
It gradually becomes an uninterrupted flow of transformations of all the histories of humanity, something we unknowingly carry within us and that we reproduce over and over until the end of time.
The title refers to a contradiction between the supernatural or the fantastic, and its waning power. Do we lack something supernatural, something full of wonder?
It’s one of the dramas of my existence, that difficulty of taking a new look at things and to be filled with wonder, to still be fascinated by the very fact of being alive. I find that the older we get, the more we lack faith, confidence, inspiration, momentum and, yes, a sense of wonder. We live in a society that gives pride of place to the individual, but that does little to encourage us to think beyond ourselves.
We live in the inevitability of the cycle, and I think that contributes to the apathy or disenchantment of our era. The world-weariness or lack of enthusiasm suggested in the title refers to the infinite repetition of the same thing, until it becomes mechanical, a confining routine that we regard as decrepit.
But I continue to believe that it is possible to free ourselves from that mindset, to magnify these infinite cycles in order to try to rise above our condition, to be filled with wonder at the mysterious force underlying and driving those cycles. The piece portrays that opposition, that tension.
« L’affadissement du merveilleux emporte d’emblée l’adhésion du spectateur. Dès les premières secondes, on se trouve kidnappé, magnétisé et entraîné. (…) Encore une belle réussite pour Catherine Gaudet. »
Aline Apostolska, Lamétropole.com, 2018-10-05
« Cette dernière création de Catherine Gaudet met un point d’honneur sur son style chorégraphique, avec une représentation simple et efficace de ce que signifie la relation entre le corps et l’esprit en corrélation avec le mouvement. »
Lucie Lesclauze, Dfdanse.com, 2018-10-03
« Catherine Gaudet et ses interprètes (…) nous donnent à voir un corps humain en mouvement perpétuel, transcendé et célébré à la fois dans ses forces et dans ses faiblesses. »
Charles A., Oceanesfamily.com, 2018-10-01
« L’intense traversée d’états de corps de cette pièce portée avec force et un don total par les cinq interprètes nous amène au seuil de la catharsis. »
Mélanie Carpentier, Le Devoir, 2018-09-27