Snakeskins

Kaaistudio's

9, 10, 12/05 – 20:30
11/05 – 22:00
13/05 – 18:00
1h

A leading light of his generation, the work of Benoît Lachambre is anchored in the experience of the immediate. Based on the quest for a more authentic presence in the world, his shows allow the imagination of a body to unfold, merging the psychological with the physical, the emotional with the somatic. After a number of collaborations, Benoît Lachambre is back with a solo. Accompanied by the composer and musician Hahn Rowe, the charismatic performer transforms on stage like a moulting animal. A creature of dynamic viscosity, he lets himself be stared at by the audience, opening himself up to the other layer by layer. But is he in a mode of regression or one of advanced evolution? Or do these terms relate more to a society that has lost any sense of the future? A multimedia, multi-sensory stage object, Snakeskins explores the skin as the surface of resistance with the rigidity of constructed definitions. A visceral and vital manifesto about the multiplicity of the being.

By & with
Benoît Lachambre

Composition & live music
Hahn Rowe

Photography
Christine Rose Divito


Light design
Yves Godin


Costume design

Alexandra Bertaut

Artistic collaboration
Daniele Albanese, Hanna Hedman


Technical direction

Philippe Dupeyroux

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater


Production
Par B.L.eux (Montréal)

Co-production
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, PACT Zollverein – Choreographisches Zentrum NRW (Essen), SNDO (Amsterdam), La Bâtie – Festival de Genève, Musée de la Danse/Centre Chorégraphique National de Rennes et de Bretagne, Atelier de Paris-Carolyn Carlson et CDC Paris Réseau/centre de développement chorégraphique (Atelier de Paris-Carolyn Carlson, L’étoile du nord,micadanses-ADDP, studio Le regard du Cygne-AMD XXe)


Supported by
Ville de Paris in the context of the residence programme at the Cité internationale des Arts et du Théâtre de la Bastille


With the financial support of
CALQ (Conseil des arts et des Lettres du Québec)

Created in Essen in May 2012

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Snakeskins

Thirteen years after he made Délire Défait (1999), Benoît Lachambre has created another solo, this time entitled Snakeskins. The excerpts below are from a discussion he had with Lars Kwakkenbos on Tuesday 27 March about several themes that can be related to the piece. First Lachambre explained why Snakeskins is“a false solo” in his opinion. They then talked about a photographic image of Christine Rose Divito that plays a central role in the piece, as well as shamanism, bodily fluids and the reasons why and how Lachambre continues to work in a non-formalist way.

Lars Kwakkenbos: You call Snakeskins a false solo. Why?

Benoît Lachambre: Firstly I’m not alone on stage. Hahn Rowe, who’s composing and playing the music, is on stage too. Secondly everything that happens on stage does so in relation to its environment and shifts with it. There’s a constant dichotomy between being alone and not being alone at all. Thirdly there also are interventions in the piece by dancer Daniele Albanese who is also my artistic assistant.

LK: There’s also a fourth reason why it might be called a false solo. In this piece it’s not so much about movement of the body, but about movement within the body.

BL: Yes and the idea of a false solo can also be recognised in other ways. From a fifth perspective we could consider that Yves Godin’s lighting plays a very mobile role in the work. From a sixth perspective, so do Alexandra Bertaut’s costumes, since they create an important link with the work’s visual content and reveal symbolic layers in the piece. Later on I’ll tell you about the set design as another strong element involved… For now there’s a seventh crucial factor which is the spectator and his or her condition of embodying a solo presence within a group that in my work always carries its own strength in space and time. All these elements are essential to the idea of what can actually contextualise the idea of a false solo.

Everything I do as a dancer and choreographer reflects a sense of both the human condition and an artistic conviction. I work a lot on the sensations of our inner and outer surfaces, of the skin itself, but also of things close to skin. Take the arm for example. Its inside is a conduit through which feelings and movements are constantly travelling in and out. There’s always movement within this arm, even when these movements are not always apparent from the outside. The movement is not always showing a move. It’s not the choreography of showing a movement. It’s not about the move you’re making, it’s about how things move around and within you. Although it creates form, it’s not a formal process. I’m not working on form, I’m working on sensations and fluids. Blood, energy, cells. All this is somehow related to body-mind centring, where the body is the entire field between things and how they interact in space. That space is a conduit of interaction. The space is a body. It allows communication to happen.

I work with movements, such as those occurring in the neural system as well as in other multiple body systems, allowing myself to move while being conscious of all the energies I embody... For instance, I’m working with goose bumps. I trigger them. The shivering of the inner body brings its surfaces alive. I’m also working on the sensation of swallowing – how you digest things, how energy enters the body – and on the function of the eye as a place for mobility, inducing movement. Here I’m dealing with the space and fluids around the eyeballs.

LK: Let’s have a look at the image that plays a central role in the piece.

BL: As you can see, there are divisions in the photo. This photograph could be shattered, as if it were in a kind of transition. The character you see at the back on the right, at the end of an open corridor, is holding a basketball. The character on the left might personify a North American first-nation ancestor.

In Mayan mythology the year 2012 marks the end of the era of the fifth sun. At the end of it, Kukulkan, the feathered serpent, will come. There’s a ritual in which a ball is tossed through a hoop made of stone, marked with symbols and hung on a wall, as if it were a basketball ring, but hung vertically. Tossing the ball through this hoop signifies the eclipse of the sun and the coming of Kukulkan. We want to relate this picture to the idea of the snake… whose metamorphoses create a feeling of apocalypse, a destruction that has been foreseen, like the ending of one era and the beginning of another one. Identities that are present in multiple layers of this photograph are important for me. The fact is that first-nation ancestors have not been respectfully recognised in terms of their personal histories and the former nations of the Americas have not been properly dignified by society either, be it in a historical perspective or in contemporary discourse. The rejection of what was the outcome of colonialism created a great deal of pain, anger and lack of balance in and among ancestors and families and in society as a whole. People have suffered a lot of pain. This photograph is not just an important photograph for me though; it can reveal a general sense of history and a consciousness of humanity. There’s a lot of symbolism in it. Think of the darkness of a passage, while there’s light at the end.

There’s a lot of struggle in the piece. I don’t think it’s necessarily a very comfortable piece to watch. There’s deep fear lurking in it. The audience might feel more pain than I do (laughs). In this, in a poetic metaphor, I project myself onto the symbolic role of a shaman. I work a lot on releasing. One of the exercises I worked on was the exercise that is called ‘water snake’. The water snake is a continuous undulation of the spine. It allows everything around the spine to release. Essentially it’s about dissolving around the spine, creating a deep release around it. The goal is to achieve a deeper understanding of life and therefore change as a necessity.

LK: Dancers view you as someone who has a specific method and very strong teaching skills. This might be an important aspect of this piece. Can you define the dialogue between those teaching skills and your work as a choreographer and performer in Snakeskins?

BL: This dialogue is a process that I have to go through… When I teach or perform, everything I do is highly physical. You don’t necessarily see the energy, but you sense it and feel it. The kinetic and empathetic body recognises it. As a teacher I work on strategies of recognising patterns in our senses and awakening them within the body. In short I am in faith, calling on the shaman in me. Shamanism is, as far as I can understand it, a way of looking at the energy of life. I don’t have any shamanic training, but as a teacher I work on energy and senses.

LK: A shaman is supposed to be a healer. Are you healing something? Do you heal senses or anything else by dancing and showing that dance to an audience?

BL: Healing? Yes, there’s a sense of healing in my work. But the healing part is also in recognising that we’re human and that we fail. We fail. That’s what we do. I’m trying to confront my fears and understand the world differently in more peaceful terms. I’m trying to look at the child within me and I like to make the child dance. I don’t want to get into judging, I want to be into motion. And here I’m also speaking about the motion of destruction. Sometimes you need to go through the motion of something that needs to die or something else that needs to be born. When you go through processes like this, you pass through processes of yielding and letting go. When a snake sheds its skin, it’s letting go of it. I’m working on that in Snakeskins.

LK: Maybe that’s a crucial difference with one of the most famous shamanistic figures in the art world, to whom you’ve also referred in the past: Joseph Beuys. His work was about a desire to heal the modern world. You’re doing things differently. In your case it’s not so much about changing the world.

BL: The process of recognising motion in your body and around you is a healing process. If you see things moving, that movement is everywhere and things are mobile. So there’s no reason for hate or war or violence. It doesn’t make sense to attack. The healing is about accepting my own failures. There’s this western view of spirituality as being all good. It’s not all good. There’s a lot of shit. And that’s ok. Learning to let things flow is part of the healing process too.

LK: You belong to a generation of choreographers and dancers who have radicalised the idea of formlessness within movement. Is Snakeskins a further step within this tradition for you?

BL: I’m still a non-formalist. It’s the essence of what I am and what I believe in. My practice is not a formal practice. Instead my practice asks: ‘If there is form, why or how does this form exist?’ What creates the awareness of existence? Form exists, but for a purpose. It’s not the form that interests me, it’s the way it’s being organised. The set design for Snakeskins is very formal and symmetrical, for instance. For me the meaning of this kind of symmetry lies within the possibilities of playing with extreme centring, accepting being completely off-centre within it, and moving within the range between these two extremes. In the case of extreme centring, I can also work on allowing my fluids to speak. Sometimes I let myself have a very radiant body and sometimes I’m looking for the opposite: a very deep and hollow body.

The perspective that’s created on stage is extremely formal. Within this construct, a lot of variations are happening though; we’re twisting this formality round. I allow myself to destroy its construct, not because I want to destroy it, but because this very destruction is a form of acceptance for me. Energy, time, weight, matter, space-time continuums… they’re all essential elements of life. Once you look at that wider picture, the stage itself starts to disintegrate. It’s a container, and when you create a container, things come into it. Sometimes the container starts overflowing and occasionally it may need to burst.

Interview by Lars Kwakkenbos

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Continually developing his dance work since the 1970s, Benoît Lachambre discovered his own performance technique back in 1985, producing a kinaesthetic approach to movement and improvisation that has left its mark on his choreographic output. He has devoted himself to taking an exploratory approach towards movement and its sources with the aim of seeking authenticity in the gesture. Benoît Lachambre has developed a language based on the present and future of a more authentic awareness. Among the artists who have influenced him the most, Benoît Lachambre includes Meg Stuart with whom he works regularly and Amelia Itcush with her work on the distribution of weight in the body. As well as working as a choreographer and dancer, Benoît Lachambre is renowned as a teacher and has given workshops and classes all over the world for over fifteen years. In 1996, Benoît Lachambre set up his own company in Montréal, Par B.L.eux. This has given him an opportunity for even more artistic encounters and dynamic exchanges during collaborations with numerous choreographers from around the world and artists from different disciplines such as Boris Charmatz, Sasha Waltz, Marie Chouinard, Louise Lecavalier and Meg Stuart as well as the musician Hahn Rowe with whom he created one of his masterpieces Forgeries, Love and other Matters in 2003 for which he won a prestigious Bessie Award in 2006. Benoît Lachambre is one of the leading artists and choreographers of his generation. He has created sixteen works since Par B.L.eux was set up (including Délire Défait in 1999, 100 Rencontres in 2005 and Is you Me in 2006) while being involved in over twenty other productions and choreographing twenty-five commissioned works.

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