In a bare space with no props save a blonde wig, a trial by choreography demands jumping repeatedly, again and again. When the depletion of resources offers the prospect of transformation.
Manuel Roque’s inexhaustible body twists and turns in vivid beams of incandescence. The combustion of energy is intense and the sweat flows, giving way to a body of the future. The depletion of resources becomes an opportunity for transformation, revitalizing the designs of humanity as it plunges towards its own destruction.
In a large space with no props save a ridiculous blonde wig, the dancer-choreographer expresses the idea of impending collapse with a test of physical stamina that involves jumping up and down, again and again, interspersed with moments of introspection. Beyond imagining the coming catastrophe, he transmits the echoes of an alternative narrative. Will our imminent downfall open up to unexpected potential? After Data and bang bang, SIERRANEVADA is the third part of a reflection on the anthropocene and the human condition. In the intimacy of a shared experience, the artist and « collapsologist » invites us to decolonize our imaginations for a rebirth that is attuned to the music of a trembling world.
Produced by Cie Manuel Roque
Created and performed by Manuel Roque
Created with Marilène Bastien + Sophie Corriveau + Lucie Vigneault
Soundtrack Manuel Roque
Technical and Production Director Judith Allen
Coproduced by Festival TransAmériques + Les Brigittines (Brussels) + La Rotonde (Québec City) + Agora de la danse + Ateliers de Paris / CDCN (Paris)
With the support of La Briquetterie (Vitry-sur-Seine) + La Rotonde (Québec City) + Circuit-Est Centre Chorégraphique
Thanks to Daniel Léveillé Danse + Marie-Andrée Gougeon + Anne Sauvage + Atelier de Paris team + Peter James + Patrick Bonté + Les Brigittines team + Philippe Dupeyroux
Presented in association with Agora de la danse
Written by Myriam Perraton-Lambert
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 27, 2020
Manuel Roque (Montreal)
A minimalist poet of supernatural physicality, Manuel Roque is a leading figure in contemporary dance in Quebec.
Trained initially in the circus arts, his raw talent draws on phenomenal body awareness and kinaesthetic precision. Yet when performing onstage he is close to the audience, a warm, inviting presence. In the early aughts Roque danced for Paul-André Fortier and Sylvain Émard, and travelled the world as a dancer with Compagnie Marie Chouinard. In the extravagant Orphée et Eurydice (FTA, 2008) his explorations of pulsating physical states gave dynamic power to the ancient myth.
Later with Daniel Léveillé, Roque continued to refine his technique and aerial acuity in works such as Solitudes solo (2012).
In 2010 RAW-me marked the beginning of a series of solos he choreographed and performed, based on a deep desire to slow down the frantic pace of touring. After an initial plunge into the origins of the world and the story of humanity in Data (FTA, 2015), he thrilled audiences at the FTA in 2017 with bang bang, a piece that featured many variations of jumping and bouncing, the dancer experiencing the rat race of modern life.
A test of physical endurance and transcendence; a study, literally and figuratively, of performance. The work was awarded the Prix de la danse de Montréal that same year, and he himself received the dance Performer of the Year award. And it was impossible to ignore his athletic performance in Running Piece (2018), a work for dancer and treadmill by Jacques Poulin-Denis. SIERRANEVADA is another reflection on the human condition that began with Data.
SIERRANEVADA pursues an aspect apparent in two previous works, Data (FTA, 2015) and bang bang (FTA, 2017), another variation of the theme of strenuous physical activity. What are you probing in this new piece?
This is the third solo where I explore the physical experience of a body performing a specific task.
With bang bang I wanted to gradually enter into a more performative experience of the body, so that I could distance myself from the formal and aesthetic aspect of Data.
By means of repetition, I pushed physical demands and endurance to another level. It is possible to interpret repeated jumping and bouncing as an image of capitalism. Going beyond the limits of the body evokes our alienating human behaviours and the incoherence of our current levels of growth. That being said, I am not looking to approach such an issue head on.
I created SIERRANEVADA starting from that first level, but aiming for greater scrutiny. This time I am placing an enormous expenditure of physical energy in service of a deeper and more sensitive probing of sensation.
In a world of information overload, I am examining types of communication that might emerge from the specific nature of the kinaesthetic experience. Although it is a format that can be fairly esoteric, I have the feeling that it has potential worth exploring.
A long period of documenting the anthropocene has nourished your solos in recent years. How do you feel about the subject at present? What questions stimulate your creative process?
There are two poles to my current research: collapse and extinction. A few months ago I came across the notion of collapsology, as described by Raphaël Stevens and Pablo Servigne in their essay Comment tout peut s’effondrer: Petit manuel de collapsologie à l’usage des générations présentes (2015). Collapsology is a multi-disciplinary field of study of the potential of our post-industrial civilizations to collapse.
The premise is that we are charging headlong toward a crash, that we have reached a point of no return at all levels of human existence: environmentally of course, but also at the social, political, economic and even spiritual levels. It is a sombre book, but it also points to an opportunity, for by accepting the collapse of our civilization as inevitable, we move from the « before » to the after, that being a future to be built, here and now, and all of us together.
That idea also comes with notions of degrowth, voluntary simplicity, changing the political and economic paradigms, upending ingrained beliefs and systems of thinking, etc. The ramifications of this crisis are all-pervasive. For Servigne and Stevens, artists are important vectors of change because they escape that complexity given their much smaller impact, i.e. at a local social level.
I found that aspect of their essay very inspiring. It echoes Naomie Klein’s argument that our imaginations have been colonized by neo-liberalism.
I asked myself, as a human, a citizen and an artist, what sort of potential(s) or change(s) could my work trigger at a local level? What alternative approaches or ideas could it generate as we face this impending catastrophe? What sort of downscaling can an artist achieve? How do we reinvent a world that better embraces our personal and collective aspirations?
How is that anxiety about collapse and extinction incarnated and presented, in the body and in the space, in your piece? What aspects allow you to explore an ecological resistance?
I’m interested in change within, in change that is shared. Body awareness changes a way of being in the world, it refines a presence, a listening.
For some, that idea is spiritual and ideological. For me, it is very concrete and is expressed in daily corporal practice such as meditation, yoga or the continuum movement, which is a dynamic inquiry into what it is to be a human being.
The quality of the attention we focus on the self and on others can generate important vibrations that can extend to the social level. That question of co-presence and shared experience is central to my current approach. The piece aims to create a connection with the audience that is inclusive and inviting, where I become a « communicating vehicle » that conveys sensations, poetic or political visions and questions.
I’m trying to enter into contact with the audience, but by the back door. The space, very similar to a rehearsal studio, bolsters that approach. It allows me to present a work that emphasizes process and encounter, that is not simply a product for cultural consumption.