Proud, fragile and luminous dancers. A choreographer in full mastery of his technique and his art presents a work where sadness loses its solemnity.
On a bare stage dancers rise up, proud, fragile and as luminous as marble. One after another, nude bodies merge together, rushing toward each other. Their solitude persists beyond their embraces, their dreams tinged with sadness.
In counterpoint to the invisible lines delineated in the space, Daniel Léveillé evokes those hollow moments where time seems to be suspended, where melancholy threatens. He draws from that ambience a gentleness previously absent from his rigorous, minimalist and demanding aesthetics. A variable-geometry quartet, this new piece is a perfect echo of his previous works, clearly reflecting a choreographer in full mastery of his technique and dancers at the very peak of their artistry. Guiding this spirit of melancholy, the muted sound of music from another century accompanies the dancers in a performance where sadness loses its solemnity.
Produced by Daniel Léveillé Danse
Choreographed by Daniel Léveillé
Performed by Mathieu Campeau + Dany Desjardins + Ellen Furey + Esther Gaudette + Justin Gionet + Simon Renaud
Music John Dowland + Marin Marais + Luca Marenzio + Claudio Monteverdi + Josquin des Prés + Giovanni Salvatore + Giovanni Maria Trabaci
Lighting Design Marc Parent
Choreography Assistant Sophie Corriveau
Rehearsal Directors Sophie Corriveau + Frédéric Boivin
Participation in development of choreographic language Emmanuel Proulx
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques
With the support of Theater im Pumpenhaus (Münster) + Atelier de Paris – Carolyn Carlson Creative Residency Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce
Written by Mylène Joly
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 30, 2018
In memory of Martine Époque
Daniel Léveillé (Montreal) Daniel Léveillé Danse
Daniel Léveillé initially studied architecture before taking dance training with the Entre-Six company and also with the Groupe Nouvel Aire.
He ventured into choreography in 1974, opting for dance tinged with theatricality. Works such as Amour, acide et noix (2001), La pudeur des icebergs (2004) and Crépuscule des océans (FTA, 2007) confirmed his unique style. Stripped of narrative, each dance piece serves the particular space and the bodies occupying that space. His powerful movements and rigorous rhythm make their mark in forceful, uncompromising fashion, dynamic expressions of his minimalist aesthetics.
A gifted teacher, Daniel Léveillé taught dance creation and performance at the University of Quebec at Montreal from 1988 to 2012. He nonetheless continued to pursue his dance career, and now enjoys an international reputation. He founded his company Daniel Léveillé Danse in 1991.
Since 2005 its mission also includes promoting young Quebec artists who are in the avant-garde of the performing arts. His 2013 piece Solitudes solo received the award for best dance work from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. That sparked a new creative cycle, which led to Solitudes duo (2015) and Sadness Quartet (2018), the most recent opus in the series. Daniel Léveillé is the winner of the Grand Prix de la danse de Montréal 2017.
Your work often consists of short phrases punctuated by moments of stillness, and is marked by striking rhythmic precision. Is there a pre-existing music, specific to your style of choreography, that influences the choice of soundtrack?
If such a thing were possible, all my dance pieces would be presented without music, but of course that is unthinkable in the theatre. After fifteen minutes of silence in a black box, spectators are haunted by anxiety. I do my musical research outside the dance studio in order to create a sort of background music. Once I have selected the music I start rehearsing with it, and it’s fascinating to see how perfectly it suits the dancers’ movements.
It almost feels like the movements were choreographed to the music, but that is not the case. If it works well, I think it is due to the fact that my dance is composed with the same rigour as the music selected to accompany the movement. My works are meticulously composed, down to the second, with moments of stillness precisely calculated. When a phrase ends, I insert a brief silence so that we can embark on a new sequence together, dancers and spectators.
That’s why there is always just one section at a time on display; so that we remain attentive, all of us seeing the same things at the same time. I like to say that I compose my dances the way Marguerite Duras composed her writing of The Lover. At first glance it is a short novel, very simple, consisting of very few words, short phrases and many repetitions, but everything she needs is all there. The writing is imbued not only with a strong musicality but also with simplicity.
Your dance features naked bodies, the dancers vulnerable and exposed, yet they appear before us without shame, strong and confident. In light of your experience with Solitudes solo and Solitudes duo where the dancers were partially clothed, how do you think the spectators will respond to the tension that nudity entails?
I’m convinced that the spectators are aware of that tension. Nudity of course conveys a feeling of fragility, a vulnerability that is even more accentuated when a naked body appears onstage. Even unclothed, however, the dancers are dressed with our inherent covering – all those muscles around our bones, our organs, skin, hair. Looking at a body means contemplating all of that. To my mind, nudity onstage is really a costume.
I set that aspect aside in Solitudes solo and Solitudes duo because I had a feeling that it was time to look at the body differently, especially since I’ve been working with the body for years. In those two works the spectator could concentrate on something else, given the more traditional rapport.
Even if they are beautiful people, however, when two dancers are naked they cannot be narcissistic. I find them to be not even sexual, since such a costume, in choreography like mine, desexualizes everything. It’s a paradox.
The title Quatuor tristesse is surprising. We tend to associate sadness with solitude or with an unhappy couple about to separate, but rarely do we associate it with a quartet. Why did you choose sadness for this quartet?
I thought that sadness was a logical progression of the solitude found in the titles of the two previous works. In both cases, they are states of mind that I put forth as a choreographer. Contrary to the dominant narrative, I don’t think they can be ignored. As for sadness, I do not approach it lightly as though it were a passing sorrow, for that has no dramatic appeal.
It is not quite melancholy in the medical sense. I did not want to venture into depression with this piece, but instead to deal with an everyday feeling, the idea of accepting the fact that in any given day there are slack periods when we might be down, a moment that feels like a heavy weight, a phase of sadness. Working along those lines, there is a softening of resistance and the choreography is imbued with a new sort of gentleness. This piece has a gentle sweetness that was non-existent in the others, even Solitudes duo.
“This is a dance that, wherever it goes, plants itself firmly in that place.”
Siobhan Burke, The New York Times, 2015-02-01, about Solitudes Solo
“For those who relish the power of movement to probe what it is to be human, it’s a definite must-see.”
Michael Crabb, Toronto Star, 2015-10-21 about Solitudes Solo
“It is as if all of humanity is nakedly displayed on stage.”
Jana Perkovic, Real Time, Winter 2016, about Solitudes Duo