Some Hope for the Bastards
With nine supercharged dancers and two musicians, Frédérick Gravel is back once again to kindle our desire for disturbing excitement with a choreographic concert of downright corrosive energy.
Exhibiting his insolent talent once again at the FTA, Frédérick Gravel is back to kindle our desire for disturbing excitement. Venturing into the Monument National for the first time, he will take the big stage by storm with a choreographic concert of downright corrosive energy: renowned performers, musicians and programmers, plus compositions by Philippe Brault. A grandiose undertaking for a sombre, cathartic celebration.
Steeped in baroque, new wave, post-punk and electro music, the choreographer hijacks the stage to lay waste to the apathy and helpless feelings of impotence of a society that has lost its way. Alternating between scathing duos and powerful group choreography, Gravel constructs a language of movement based on tenacious bodies and pounding pulsation. Constantly on the alert, the dancers remain open to surprises, to accidents. All are fallible, fiery, viscerally engaged. A stunning poetry is born, the sullen mood swept away. From the gloomy shadows emerges art.
Produced by Grouped’ArtGravelArtGroup
Artistic direction and choreography Frédérick Gravel
Performed by David Albert-Toth + Dany Desjardins + Kimberley De Jong + Francis Ducharme + Hanako Hoshimi-Caines + Louise Michel Jackson + Frédéric Tavernini + Lucie Vigneault + Jamie Wright
Music Philippe Brault performed by Philippe Brault + José Major
Lighting design Alexandre Pilon-Guay
Production Frédérick Gravel + Daniel Léveillé Danse
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques + Daniel Léveillé Danse + Fonds de création CanDanse (Festival TransAmériques + Centre national des Arts du Canada (Ottawa) + PuSh Performing Arts Festival (Vancouver) + The Banff Centre) + Centre chorégraphique national de Caen en Normandie – direction Alban Richard through Accueil-studio Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (France) + Muffatwerk (Munich) + Usine C
Presented by Havas in association with Monument-National
Written by Diane Jean
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on June 1, 2017
Frédérick Gravel (Montreal)
Over the past dozen years, Frédérick Gravel has delighted in calling into question the very foundations of contemporary dance, dispensing with tradition and brandishing a kaleidoscopic aesthetic, a quirky mélange of different disciplines.
A choreographer, dancer, lighting designer and musician, his works and their rock ‘n roll ambience have made him one of the most popular Quebec artists on the international stage.
In 2004 he established the collective La 2e Porte à Gauche, and then the Grouped’ArtGravelArtGroup (GAG) of musicians and performers who collaborate on various projects. In 2009 the FTA presented his piece Gravel Works, followed by Tout se pète la gueule, chérie in 2010 and, more recently, other works (Ainsi parlait… in 2013, Logique du pire in 2016) co-created with the writer and director Étienne Lepage, who shares Gravel’s caustic sense of humour. His choreography Usually, Beauty Fails was created in Finland and presented in Montreal in 2012. In 2015 he conceived and performed in the intimate duo This Duet That We’ve Already Done (so many times) with Brianna Lombardo. He also worked with Paul-André Fortier on Pluton (FTA, 2016). An instigator and a unifying force, Frédérick Gravel regularly collaborates with artists from other disciplines, moving easily from theatre to video to stage concerts. In 2008 he designed the choreography for Mutantès, a mega show by singer-songwriter Pierre Lapointe. They joined forces again in 2017, along with Étienne Lepage and Sophie Cadieux, to work on Lapointe’s large-scale project Amours, délices et orgues presented at the Francofolies.
You have said that you create dance like a musician composes a musical score. As in your previous shows, is music once again a strong presence in this new piece?
I started work on this project with a study of the beats and pulsations in the first section of Bach’s St. John Passion, which includes a lovely ostinato. I did a lot of work on the musicality of the body, on musicality itself and the progression of musical accents in the body. I initially view a choreographic idea as a melody, and my work is similar to staging a concert. I make a sort of music with dance, or you could say that I compose lines that the dancers will perform with their own timbre, in their own key.
In working with the composer Philippe Brault for example, we evoked the group Joy Division to illustrate the idea of a feast, but one that is a sombre celebration. Not a party for fun and laughs and to forget life for a while, but an occasion to embrace our burdens, to accept tragedy. Rather than believing in a glorious future, the sweet hereafter or definitive solutions, we should perhaps assume our ugliness and our fears, and build and administer our shared lives by focusing on finding strategies for living together.
Since your piece Gravel Works you have been pursuing more or less the same initial idea, that of bringing together dancers, exchanging ideas and then building a dance piece together with the members of that group. What was the dominant element in your meetings and discussions? Was there a particular theme or concept?
I like to work with the different levels of a performer’s consciousness, with what he or she is really expressing, what dancers think they are expressing, what they choose to make visible without trying to exercise control over it. The same applies to the characters that the dancers create. What are they aware of, how are they fooled? It is not a concept, but represents instead interest in the work.
If we must absolutely determine a theme, it could be our paltry collective awareness. The ideology in place in our society convinces us that we are unique and self-created, lucid and responsible, all aspects that we so cruelly lack.
Who are the bastards mentioned in the title?
Our society at the moment is regressing, as the current context encourages fear and loathing. People who can change things, those with some education, who are capable of having a perspective on a situation, are also the spectators watching our shows. But no one knows what to do.
Recently in a moment of pessimism, I told myself that the only thing I can try to do is to create beautiful and maybe motivating work, for art can indeed be something grandiose. At the same time you could say that I don’t believe in art, being that I have a cynical nature. Thus ’tis I, the bastard of the title! We have become servants, flunkeys, participants in a state of affairs that we detest. The title refers to that emotion, that moment when I feel that I am of no use, that the only thing I do is to offer a bit of hope to some assholes – myself included.
How then do you resist the temptation to create shows where such questioning is more “in your face”, to engage in probing that triggers discussions or a form of protest?
I have the feeling that I’m preaching to the converted. I would prefer that we be engaged with art, and if there is any hope it is to accept the challenge that we work together as a group, that I avoid creating works for the converted. I established a group called Les Chorégraphes anonymes and its purpose is to talk, to discuss unresolved problems in the world of dance.
The idea is not to seek agreement but to try to understand the different artistic positions of each member, to create together so that we can better respond to what is occurring, to understand and to give voice to how we experience situations in our society. The goal is not to write a manifesto, but to help us to think. To my mind, thinking in better ways is a form of engagement.
“[Frédérick Gravel’s] shows feel like something new and real.”
Janet Smith, Straight.com, 2016-06-22, about Usually Beauty Fails
“Frédérick Gravel is arguably the most significant dance artist to emerge in Quebec in the past 10 years. He produces dance theatre – a combination of text and movement – that is sly and subversive.”
Paula Citron, The Globe and Mail, 2014-08-12, about Thus Spoke…
« Rares sont les chorégraphes de danse contemporaine qui réussissent à faire frétiller les ados autant que les critiques les plus férus du genre. »
Fabienne Cabado, Voir, 2016-05-24
« Aussi bien au Québec qu’à l’étranger, Frédérick Gravel a marqué les esprits avec ses concerts chorégraphiques et son univers d’énergie bouillonnante, de crudité sexuelle et de désinvolture ironique. »
Nayla Naoufal, Le Devoir, 2015-11-07