A decadent, ecstatic and disturbing bacchanal, this over-the-top carnival quivers with euphoric agony. Wedding and funeral marches for humanity on the decline.
Faces wracked by joy and terror. Carefree times are gone, yet the human species continues to advance. Or is it perhaps on the decline, condemned, hurtling toward death? With Post coïtum, a sort of reverse sequel to Animal triste, Mélanie Demers orchestrates a post-coital parade, a cortège of our impending demise. A decadent, ecstatic and disturbing bacchanal, this over-the-top carnival quivers with euphoric agony.
After the climax, the intoxication and the excess comes dissolution, the exhausted body. In a sequence of movements that alienate with their repetition, shifting from kitsch to the postures of ancient statues, the dance becomes a nuptial trance, a swirl of shouts and cries, the penultimate orgasm. These sad buffoons look like us, creatures in search of a long-lost humanity, preening archetypes torn between glory and disgrace. They struggle and rejoice, cry and laugh. What sort of rebirth do they imagine comes after the downfall?
Produced by MAYDAY
Conceived, directed and choreographed by Mélanie Demers
Performed by and choreographed with Marc Boivin + Brianna Lombardo + Chi Long + Léa Noblet di Zinaraldi + Riley Sims + James Viveiros
Rehearsal Director Anne-Marie Jourdenais
Dramaturgy Angélique Willkie
Music Jean-Sébastien Côté
Lighting Design Alexandre Pilon-Guay
Technical Director Rodolphe St-Arneault
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques + Agora de la danse + KLAP, Maison pour la danse (Marseille) + Centre Chorégraphique National de Tours + Centro per la Scena Contemporanea (Bassano del Grappa) + The Dance Centre (Vancouver) + Quick Center for the Arts (Fairfield)
Creative residencies Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique + Agora de la danse + Centre Chorégraphique National de Tours + Quick Center for the Arts (Fairfield) + L’Espace le vrai monde
MAYDAY is a member of Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique + Art Circulation, associate company at the Agora de la danse, in artistic collaboration with Centro per la Scena Contemporanea/Operaestate Festival (Bassano del Grappa)
Presented by Infopresse in association with Théâtre Rouge du Conservatoire
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 28, 2020
Mélanie Demers (Montreal)
After establishing her dance company MAYDAY in 2007, the dancer and choreographer Mélanie Demers created works renowned for their intensity, raw poetry and social engagement.
She has worked with several theatre and dance artists, and also as a dance teacher in Kenya, Niger, Brazil and Haiti. Her dance serves as a call to action and reflection, an invitation to transformation. After Les angles morts (2006) and Sauver sa peau (2008), which pursued her emphasis on political significance, she created the explosive Junkyard/Paradis (2010), where the conflict between paradise and hell is a vibrant portrait of social, political and private despair.
The highly physical and theatrical piece Goodbye (FTA, 2012) was a reflection on art and its artifices. It was followed by MAYDAY remix (2014) and WOULD (2015), which was awarded the Prix de la meilleure œuvre chorégraphique by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. With the dancer Marc Boivin, she participated in Pluton – acte 2 at the FTA in 2016, a collective aimed at building bridges between generations.
In 2016 Mélanie Demers began a new creative cycle with Animal triste and Icône pop, which received the Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation at the SummerWorks Performance Festival in Toronto. For Danse mutante (2019), she envisioned multiple mutations of a piece for two dancers to be reworked and re-imagined by four female choreographers.
After her portrayal of man, a creature of no significance, in Animal triste, Post coïtum takes a look as his impending downfall as viewed through all the moods attendant to his glory and delights: euphoria, self-satisfaction, excess, frenzy. Demers proposes a plunge into an end-of-times blowout.
Animal triste was a portrayal of the nature and postures of humanity. Post coïtum pursues that narrative by casting its gaze on mankind’s downfall. What was it about post-coital energy that interested you?
I saw that sexual afterglow not as intimacy between two people, but as a metaphor for our times. I was thinking about its emotional states – euphoria, excess, rapture and giddy release – thus the decadence of our era.
We could draw a parallel with ancient Rome, but Rome was not aware of its impending decline, whereas we are.
Will our demise lead to the end of the world or to a revival? Might it mean the beginning of something else, to the flowering of certain seeds already planted?
Sexual intercourse is often followed by post-coital dysphoria or melancholy. The ancients observed that after coitus there is a sadness in the soul.
Four years ago I presented a dance piece entitled Animal triste. I wanted to create a follow-up that focused not on the buildup but on the aftermath. To a certain extent Post coïtum is a reverse sequel to Animal triste and its focus on human civilization, the building of families, clans and social networks, as well as spiritual evolution.
The new piece serves as an oracle, charting an ascendancy that degenerates into a bacchanal, the inevitable march toward death. Post coïtum is a reflection on what lies in store for our society ten, twenty or fifty years from now.
The dancers experience a series of contrasting moods and emotions. How do you view their movements and facial expressions, that alliance of opposites?
We’re trying to break down the neutrality of contemporary dance, which often features bodies that are very expressive but faces that remain neutral. On the contrary, we’re playing with inner states to see how compelling both bodies and faces can be.
We even toy with extremes, with kitsch, portraying clichéd poses and moods. With basic emotions like joy, sadness or spite, we try to find meaning through archetypes. I prefer working with less movement, to reexamine them in various ways, having them reappear with an emotional charge, a projection, a different impact.
We make use of masks and postures inspired by classical Greek and Roman sculpture such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Delacroix painting Liberty Leading the People, epic images of glory and decadence. On Instagram we discovered someone who created a parallel between the Géricault painting The Raft of the Medusa and images of Black Friday.
Like the original, it features bodies that are expressive and ostentatious. I see the dancers as modern-day court jesters who incarnate the carnivalesque, the grotesque, a burlesque buffoonery. They embody several contrary states and emotions that prevent them from being in complete harmony.
The choreography is built on that physical exhaustion, that trance, pushing to the edge that energy that leads to rack and ruin. The various repetitive marches –funeral marches, wedding marches – reflect a sort of rootless drifting that evokes migrants and migration. They march together, haunted by heartbreak, torn by the contrasting energies of attraction and repulsion.
Does it convey a political message about the difficulty of being part of a community in a world that promotes individualism?
Ours is a hyper-connected world, but there is nothing like being together. I want to render visible the differences in bodies, in physical abilities, language, age and culture. The challenge of working with a diverse group of six dancers in a piece about society and micro-societies lies in giving them space and light, being attentive to what they have to offer.
They are always seeking unison, like a quest for a social utopia of harmony. It is a privilege to spend hours asking questions about authenticity, the pace of our march, our standing and sitting positions. These are aesthetic issues that then become political. What do we do with our lives? How can we live together?
My first dance pieces were more militant, to a certain extent acts of protest, whereas now I try to leave space for ambiguity, working on the relation between narration and abstraction.
I’ve just finished a project, Danse mutante, that was very theatrical, that emphasized speech over movement. Here I’m trying to do the inverse, with pride of place given to movement. Can we be evocative, eloquent and get straight to the point while also being clear, precise and effective using abstract language?