UNFOLD | 7 perspectives
Danièle Desnoyers tests the resistance of the body and the limits of balance. Magnetic and powerful, UNFOLD | 7 perspectives captivates with its finesse and its furious energy.
The body opens up, closes shut, is short-circuited. The voice stammers, gasps, is fragmented. Trembling and falling off balance are all part of this three-stage piece for seven high-calibre dancers. Together they seek unison as they struggle in search of identity. Long known for her very fluid style, Danièle Desnoyers has chosen a new angle here as she plays with splintered movement and makes trembling visible. Echoes of fractured humans, body and voice broken, disintegrated.
Vibrating to the sounds and rough-edged music by the composer Ben Shemie, UNFOLD | 7 perspectives combines an apocalyptic atmosphere with moments of sweetness and refined sensuality. Making use of a surprising stage structure, Desnoyers tests the resistance of the body and the limits of balance. A powerful, magnetic duel between the forces at play in the dynamics of harmony, the piece captivates with its finesse and furious energy.
Produced by Le Carré des Lombes
Directed and choreographed by Danièle Desnoyers
Performed by Myriam Arseneault + Paige Culley + Jean-Benoit Labrecque-Gilbert + Louis-Elyan Martin + Milan Panet-Gigon + Nicolas Patry + Brontë Poiré-Prest
Music Ben Shemie
Set Design Geneviève Lizotte
Costume, Make-up and Hair Angelo Barsetti
Lighting Design Gonzalo Soldi / HUB Studio
Dramaturgy Guy Cools
Production Manager Martin Boisjoly
Technical and Lighting Direction Hubert Leduc-Villeneuve
Sound Engineer Benoit Chaignon
Coproduction Festival TransAmériques
With the support of Faculté des arts + Département de danse de l’UQAM
Creative residencies Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity + Montpellier Danse – Agora, cité internationale de la danse + Armunia – Castello Pasquini (Castiglioncello) + Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique
Presented in association with Fonds GB
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 30, 2019
Danièle Desnoyers (Montreal) Le Carré des Lombes
Since founding her company Le Carré des Lombes in 1989, the Montreal choreographer Danièle Desnoyers has been actively involved in the emergence of new perspectives in Quebec dance.
Her works are based on interdisciplinary resonances between movement, music and visual art. From her decisive encounter with the choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault she has retained a taste for breaking down barriers, for making dance wide open and adventurous. Her repertoire of some twenty works reflects a search for an ongoing dialogue between the language of the body and music, sound, staging and space.
A professor in the dance department at the University of Quebec at Montreal, her works are regularly taught in dance schools and presented at prestigious international venues and festivals. In 2016 her piece Anatomie d’un souffle marked the first-ever collaboration between the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and a choreographer of contemporary dance.
Renowned for her generous, fluid and sensual style, Desnoyers has pursued an interest in the raw material of sound ever since Discordantia (1997), which led to her developing an abstract expression of the friction between the languages of sound and those of the body.
Her new work, UNFOLD / 7 perspectives, developed during a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and also at l’Agora, cité internationale de la danse in Montpellier and in Castiglioncello in Italy, introduces the notion of instability thanks to a flexible stage device that folds out and then folds back in, creating an environment of constraints to probe the body’s ability to adapt. After presenting Là où je vis (FTA, 2008) and Sous la peau la nuit (FTA, 2012), Desnoyers is embarking on a new exploration of what the troubles of broken-down language and speech provoke in the body.
You are used to working in an empty space. For UNFOLD you have chosen a flexible, adjustable stage device. Why that choice?
I began by playing with paper, folding it, opening it, testing how spaces generate different tensions. I decided to apply that approach to stage machinery that folds in and out, opens up and closes shut, to study the adaptability of the human body. I had already worked with restrictive spaces in Duo pour corps et instrument for example, where the dancers were confined at the outset to three sound zones, but the effect is more imposing in this new piece.
The set designer Geneviève Lizotte first suggested a big structure in the form of a square in space, but I didn’t think we would be able to work with such a large spatial constraint, because to my mind the departure point is an abstract non-space, like an empty anechoic chamber for deadening sound. The space is my primary partner. Dance is born of tensions in the body, many of them generated by the body’s relationship to space. I wanted to work with constraints – not having the dancers move less in the space, but having them express something in a stability determined by fixed points, somewhat like the way it is done in painting.
Francis Bacon, for example, placed bodies on platforms so that he could capture their force, which is similar to the process I developed. UNFOLD takes the form of a triptych where a flexible, 3-position structure generates the dance proposal. I begin with maximum constraints and move on to lighter tensions, until what is left is an empty space where the body is highly destabilized.
How does UNFOLD imply friction or a rupture, elements that are quite present in the piece?
Unfurling implies an enclosing. It can be seen in the dancers’ bodies, in their fragmented movements. I apply it to all the compositional elements of the piece, from the set design to the music and the sound. The voice of someone who stutters reflects a form of resistance in the body, mechanisms that fascinate me. I like the idea of run-down or damaged voice or speech. It reminds me of something the Flemish writer Pieter de Buysser said: “I have a tree that is growing in my throat.” The image of a tree spreading out in the throat as the buds and leaves unfurl evokes a body inhabited by different forms of “unfolding”. Stammering is associated with mechanical trouble, and pursuing that line was a learning curve for me.
I deliberately sought to break the fluidity of my dance language, and its association with beauty, grace, aesthetics and mastery, so as to push the limits of balance and equilibrium. The dancers are always on the point of falling, but at the same time convey suppleness and adaptability. They are like reeds. We worked on imbalance and quavering, so similar to trembling and popping. It touches my febrile nature, my excitability, my anxiety, which I don’t pass on to others. I like that struggle between extremes.
The fractured body brings me to fractured humans, to flaws and weakness, to the breaking point. How far can we push someone’s limits? I look for them in the tension of the body in space, rather than in letting go or in falling. The dancers are constantly working to maintain their balance. There is a search for harmony, but once they achieve it they are destabilized. I push those notions further by deconstructing them. The body that resists is a metaphor for our humanity.
The title refers to seven perspectives. Does the idea of individuality prevail or that of the group?
It is an ensemble piece, but individuality is a strong presence, a reflection of our individualistic society. At one point the dancers create a human chain of constellations. There is a search for mutual aid and support, but someone always slips through and must be brought back. What I ask of the dancers is very demanding.
They must be not only attuned to their individuality but also to events that occur abruptly, to outside phenomena, they must support an ensemble. That constant back-and-forth between their singularity and being a member of the group requires a new form of virtuosity on their part, active prowess. I like playing with that tension: how can we be a community in today’s world? How can we dance together while conserving one’s individuality, one’s identity? The dancers incarnate identity crises that serve the ensemble.
“Stating that Danièle Desnoyers’ choreography is brilliant is a huge understatement, but I’m afraid no word in the English dictionary could describe the genius that this woman is. The performance was avant-garde, unique, raw, everything a contemporary production needs to be and so much more.”
Elizabeta Golubkov, Montreal Rampage, 2015-05-05, à propos de Paradoxe Mélodie
« Un cadeau auquel on ne s’attendait pas, un moment intense entre contemplation et exaltation »
Benjamin Goron, Camuz.ca, 2016-05-09, à propos d’Anatomie d’un souffle
“Too beautiful for words”
Elizabeta Golubkov, Montreal Rampage, 2015-05-05, à propos de Paradoxe Mélodie
« Un spectacle complet, déstabilisant, émouvant »
Sophie Jama, HuffPost, 2016-05-08, à propos d’Anatomie d’un souffle