Rather a Ditch
Echoing the hypnotic Steve Reich album Different Trains, Clara Furey directs Céline Bonnier in a sensual, visceral solo full of the silence of what has been lost.
Woman as landscape, woman as machine. Waiting for the train, or the train itself. A jerky, jolting journey of the body set to frenetic music. And then, silence. Echoing the hypnotic Steve Reich album Different Trains she listened to as a child, Clara Furey directs Céline Bonnier in a visceral, existentialist solo.
What if we had taken the wrong train? How do survivors cope with guilt and gratitude? Furey examines the questions Reich asks about the sacrificed of history, probing the fragility of our destinies. The silence resonates with the profound solitude of humanity facing itself after the chaos. Paying meticulous attention to breathing, to the subtle bursts of energy in the paper wall imagined by the visual artist Caroline Monnet, Clara Furey explores the body’s states of being, carving a new language into the abyss. Spare, vibrant, magnetic.
Produced by Clara Furey
Executive Producer Par B.L.eux
Original Idea Olivier Bertrand
Concept and Artistic Direction Clara Furey
Created with and performed by Céline Bonnier
Sonic Conception Jean-François Blouin
Sonic Research Ida Toninato
Set Design Caroline Monnet
Lighting Design Karine Gauthier
Costume Design Michèle Hamel
Outside Eyes Andrew Tay + Christopher Willes
Lighting Design Assistant Tim Rodrigues
Technical Direction Maude Bernier
Distribution Par B.L.eux
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques + La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines
With the support of Centro per la Scena Contemporanea (Bassano del Grappa) + Danse à la Carte + Par B.L.eux
Codiffusion La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines
Clara Furey is an associate artist at Par B.L.eux
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 26, 2019
Clara Furey (Montreal)
Clara Furey studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris, and began her career as a singer and composer.
She then studied dance at the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal and performed for choreographers such as George Stamos, Damien Jalet and Benoît Lachambre. An artist who collaborates with others (Untied Tales with Peter Jasko, presented at the Venice Biennial in 2016, Ciguë with Éric Arnal Burtschy), Furey singlehandedly directed Cosmic Love, in 2017, an ensemble minimal movement piece that explores emptiness and invisible aspects in interactions between the body, song and space.
The performer and choreographer is interested in the shifting codes of various art forms, in interdisciplinary dialogue. In 2017 she did 90 performances of When Even The next to a sculpture by Marc Quinn, as part of the Leonard Cohen exhibit at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
She performed at the FTA in Là où je vis (2008) by Danièle Desnoyers and in Poésie, sandwichs et autres soirs qui penchent (2008) by Loui Mauffette and, with Benoît Lachambre, co-created Chutes incandescentes (2012), an unclassifiable solo for two bodies. With Rather a Ditch, Furey is once again working with her accomplice Céline Bonnier, with whom she created Hello. How are you (2011).
This time she is pursuing her research on the porosity of bodies and dialogue between various media, in a piece that is a response to Steve Reich’s Different Trains album, an invitation launched by Olivier Bertrand, artistic director of La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines.
Rather a Ditch is part of the Album Project by Olivier Bertrand, artistic director of La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines, which takes certain music albums as the point of point departure for artistic projects. Why did you choose Steve Reich’s Different Trains?
I must admit that Different Trains brings me back to the joys of playing written music, part of my studies at the Conservatoire de musique in Paris. The piece also fascinates for the observation it makes.
“If I had taken another train, would I be dead?” That evokes the question of destiny, and the guilt that survivors feel. We all know people who took the wrong path and we can only be grateful for being where we are, even if we have made bad choices. I am a woman in my thirties, free, born with opportunities. It is not one’s birthright to deserve anything.
Different Trains contains an important element of gratitude, of recognizing one’s luck. The character incarnated by Céline Bonnier echoes the album, which is divided into three parts: Before the War, During the War, After the War. She tries to put on her dress but can’t manage it, like a child who doesn’t want to go to his first day at school, like someone who can’t prepare for what lies ahead.
The show stages an excerpt from the album, which is echoed in silence. Why that contrast?
I wanted the piece to be heard—it’s full of life, electric, a strong presence—and to then respond with a mirror image, because Reich is talking about the Holocaust, about those who took the wrong train that led to the concentration camps and their disappearance.
I’m interested in ricochet, in resonance. What exists, what is already there, what do we discover, when do we stop to notice? In my last three projects (Untied Tales, Cosmic Love and When Even The), music played a large role because it engaged in a dialogue with a big empty stage. Rather a Ditch embarks on a dialogue with silence, which leaves a lot of room for the spectator’s imagination in the shape of implicit, internal language.
The choreography explores a body’s states of being. How did you approach your use of movement?
I question the dance with each breath, each small gesture. I’m fascinated by immobility, an impossible goal. At times I see Céline Bonnier as woman as landscape, at other times as the woman in the train, or as the train itself.
My aim with that insistence is to upend the spectators’ expectations, so that they fall into a hypnotic state. I’m trying to create a state of listening, a receptiveness and an awakening, so that they feel the power of sound, of the train, and also the waves that Céline makes with her belly. When she breathes, we perceive that machinery of the train, of sexual energy, and also the landscape passing by.
I wanted her body to be in a conversation with sound and space, dominated by a paper wall created by Caroline Monnet. It is a landscape in constant movement that evokes the idea of archival storage, the accumulation of bits of paper that are an echo of the anonymous dead. The wall is lifelike yet morbid. The music, the movement and the visual art engage in call and response, influencing each other.
Why the title, which is from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: “Rather a ditch in Egypt. Be gentle grave unto me!”?
Cleopatra says the opposite of Reich, who said “This train or that train is beyond my control”. She asserts the right to choose where she will dig her grave. I like her radicalism. We can’t choose everything in life, but we do have the power to decide.
The title looks at death from a perspective of choice. By nature I am attracted to dark aspects, but obsessed about finding light therein. For me blackness is not only a psychological state but also a binding element. It is indiscriminate chaos, it is what we miss in light.
“Simply mesmerizing! The performance was marked by stunning authenticity (…) a perfect offering to Cohen’s memory.”
James D. Campbell, White Hot Magazine, 2018-01, about When Even The
“The richness of living this connection with a play and its performers for a full hour was a resonant experience.”
Jane-Anne Cormier, Insideandsomewhereelse.com, 2017-12-15, about Cosmic Love
“Furey in performance is an electrifying presence, even when she’s hardly moving.”
Robert Everett-Green, The Globe and Mail, 2017-11-24, about When Even The
“A beautiful moment of simplicity and humility, and humanity.”
Quinn Baston, Offoffoff.com, 2017-06-28, about Untied Tales(the vanished power of the usual reign)