danse de nuit

€ 18 / € 14

Outdoor performance
No seats

This year choreographer Boris Charmatz is taking over a public space in Brussels with a performance that has something of a concrete flavour to it. danse de nuit is a nocturnal and eruptive rush of movements and words that draw their intensity from urban dance, public marches and street parties. Either in a group or individually, the performers attempt to articulate something about what we are facing today, getting their bodies to communicate a “state of emergency” with an urgent need to take over this public space and introduce an appearance of reality. The spectators themselves are required to move, led around in groups, experiencing waves of panic, forming packs or breaking out. A commando dance with accents of an artistic guerrilla style, danse de nuit makes our tormented world’s obscure and almost carnivalesque impulses and transgressive charges its own in a truly dazzling display.

Performed by
Ashley Chen, Boris Charmatz, Olga Dukhovnaya, Julien Gallée-Ferré, Jolie Ngemi, Marlène Saldana

Boris Charmatz

Light design
Yves Godin

Lights carried in Brussels by
Renaud Cagna, Julia Stehling, Christophe Jaccard, Chamsedine Madec

Jean-Paul Lespagnard

Vocal coach
Dalila Khatir

realised from dancers’ improvisations, the texts Erasure, Hands Touching, Move and Starfucker by Tim Etchells, the words of Patrick Pelloux on Radio France Inter on 8 January 2015, writings by Boris Charmatz, quotes and reappropriations from Robert Barry, Marc Gremillon, Bruno Lopes, Didier Morville, Thierry Moutoussamy, Bruce Nauman, Christophe Tarkos, as well as a French counting-out rhyme

Stage manager
Mathieu Morel

Mélissandre Halbert

Marion Régnier

Rehearsal assistance
Magali Caillet-Gajan

Production management
Sandra Neuveut, Martina Hochmuth, Amélie-Anne Chapelain


Musée de la danse/Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne

With the support of
Fondation d’entreprise Hermès in the framework of the New Settings programme

Théâtre National de Bretagne-Rennes, Théâtre de la Ville & Festival d’Automne à Paris, La Bâtie-Festival de Genève, Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Kampnagel (Hamburg), Sadler’s Wells (London), Taipei Performing Arts Center, Onassis Cultural Center (Athens)

Performance in Brussels supported by
Institut français & Ambassade de France en Belgique in the framework of EXTRA

Thanks to
Le Triangle-cité de la danse, Rosas, WIELS Center for Contemporary Art (Brussels), Arnaud Godest, Peggy Grelat-Dupont, Perig Menez, Mani Mungai, Frank Willens

With the kind authorization of
Tim Etchells, for the use of his texts

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danse de nuit

What are those dancers doing out there on the concrete surrounded by all the din of the city? Shouldn’t they be on a stage somewhere, in a theatre, away from the wind, rain and cold? And what exactly is a “danse de nuit”. Is it a party, a procession, a demonstration or a nocturnal battle? Or is it some sort of night-time dance in a round, held in secret, away from the light? Is it the inverse of a daytime dance? A clandestine, hidden-away dance. Forbidden territory perhaps? Following on from the trilogy comprising Levée des conflits, enfant and manger, three vast choreographic structures that make use of a layering effect of actions and constraints, Boris Charmatz is returning to a streamlined formation, featuring dance, speaking and movement at their most condensed level. He also draws upon the intensity of urban dance, but in a way that breaks down or disarticulates all its codes. Continuing here his research at the junction between movement and voice, he connects these talking bodies to an amplifier, which has a direct link with the outside world. danse de nuit could be seen as a commando group of dancers on the frontiers of the public space, on a mission to push themselves to their limits, reflecting any contradictions they encounter. In group formation or every one for themselves, they attempt to articulate something, anything, about our situation, and to make a “state of emergency” come alive in their bodies. A shared sense of intensity develops, circulates. Fragments of words and phrases spring forth… even to the point of blurring and creating misunderstanding. What becomes apparent is the urgent need to reoccupy this space which has been confiscated by state logic. Situated somewhere between Greek agon and agony, contradictory outburst and funeral march, wild remix and ephemeral dance, danse de nuit can be deciphered as a hastily-scribbled drawing, a piece of unfinished graffiti on a wall whose slogan reverberates well into the night.

Interview with Boris Charmatz

The public space is an extremely polarised place – torn between being confiscated and the need to repossess it. This is a central issue at the moment that is being embodied in several movements such as “Nuit debout”. Do you have the feeling that this piece is connected with today’s subconscious?
Yes, there’s a genuine issue around occupying or taking back the public space, questioning what you can do there. At the same time I’m feeling a need that is close to these preoccupations while being slightly removed from them: it’s an absolutely artistic, choreographic need that the people gathered there are dancing, danced, moving. It’s a space that’s closely associated with spaces of protest, but isn’t dependent on them. It’s also asserting a dimension of its own comprising fictional, poetic and physical questions. Therefore danse de nuit is at the crossroads of these dimensions, either in friction or in resonance with them. Dancing outside a theatre is not new in itself. I’ve already done lots of projects outdoors like Ouvrée and Bocal. But the connection is different here; it’s not just a question of “outdoors” but also of affirmation and visibility. As a child in Chambéry, I remember seeing Daniel Larrieu rehearsing outdoors in the court of the Palais Royal, in front of the Ministry of Culture, to demand spaces for dance. What we’re going to do is not exactly the same kind of thing because we’re not demanding space for work, but it’s about affirming the street as a possible performance space. But I see a line of affirmation that’s quite close to it. And then our dance is partly spoiled by the concrete. It’s made rougher, dirtier. Dancing outside is a gamble on losing clarity and finesse by being on this kind of terrain.

At the same time your dance still comprises the dimension of obstacles and constraints, like dancing with an inert child in your arms or moving while eating and singing… Here the constraint is less on the body than on the environment they’re in.
Yes that’s true. The starting principle was really to succeed in doing an urban dance, a street dance, but not in a stylistic sense; more in the literal sense. What kind of dance can you come up with in a car park? How do you address it? The objective is not to do a hip-hop battle, a street show or an outdoor show… The particular conditions of this show create a novel situation that pushes dance to the point of disequilibrium. It just so happens that we’re working in daylight, but this makes the situation very different: you see everything, there’s not this uncertainty or feeling of fleetingness that can’t be dissociated from the project. It resonates with the fleetingness of the drawings and satirical cartoons evoked in the piece. So it all leads to quite a dark tone, slightly on the edge of the abyss.

The title evokes different imaginary worlds. An “eerie” dimension that reflects night as a moment of strangeness… And lends it the feel of the dancers being like a commando unit or secret group…
The night and the city already produce a certain aesthetic – an aesthetic that will change according to the places where we’re going to perform in since the idea is to for us to be nomadic. Elements like street lighting or the weather also introduce variations in terms of the conditions and atmosphere… For this piece we’re working with a fashion designer Jean-Paul Lespagnard who is going to come up with the costumes… Without doubt in a way it’s quite similar to what Yves Godin is going to do with the lighting – i.e. having something that can be adapted, like a kit. Yves is currently working on a device for portable lighting. Jean-Paul has designed a portable changing room with different types of costumes in a slightly carnivalesque style: something that takes this danse de nuit towards the fantastic but also towards masquerade – with ambiguous strata superimposed on top. Since we’re going to be performing this piece at night, the objective is to create silhouettes that outline the dancers’ bodies, allowing them to be visible despite the intermittent lighting and their fairly close proximity to the audience. These costumes will also accentuate their ghostly character in a way that creates apparitions… One of the exercises we’ve been doing involves moving however we want and saying whatever we want… For me this brings in the idea of carnival, an inversion of values: there’s the freedom to say whatever you want, including absurd things. By moving however we want, real pearls emerge but so does the “rubbish” of movement. I’ve always worked a bit like this, on different choreographic levels – but even more so here. For this piece, I want to move towards profusion: a profusion of gestures, words and forms.

How is the choreography specifically organised between the six dancers? Have you written duets and solos or is it more for the mass, for the whole group?
The basis for it is lots of solo material. The dancers share and exchange a very rapid vocabulary; it’s circulating around them. That’s the case with the text too, which often starts as a solo and goes back to being in unison. During the film in fact, we did research on more physical material involving contact, crowding the bodies together more. In reality we’re only at the start of this approach in rehearsals. Doubtless it will be a central part of it, but it’s still a little vague at the moment… I know that I’d like a slower moment, more contact, as a counterbalance to the very rapid solo material. At the start, I devised six areas of work, comprising fast dance on concrete, a textual layer, but also food or the fact of manipulating lighting. Currently, the material is in the process of being tightened up: the piece is focused on fairly rapid urban gestures and work on the text.

For this piece, you’re returning to a smaller formation. Do your three previous pieces – Levée des conflits, enfant and manger – form a single body of work for you? Would that make danse de nuit the start of a new cycle?
I still see plenty in danse de nuit and manger that’s close – actually more than I’d like! In manger there’s very important work on sound, orality and music. Here it’s not musical since its oral nature is more geared towards the text – as if words have replaced the melody and singing. In other respects, in danse de nuit the dance comes first, whereas it is more in the background in manger. In manger, the three elements – eating, moving and singing – are completely interdependent. You could even say that they don’t exist on their own, while in danse de nuitmy wish is for dance to be able to hold its own. Words too, ultimately. These are two strata that are accumulated rather than that they complement one another. Afterwards, I’m planning to produce a large form called 10000 gestes, which will be closer to Levée des conflits. I’m still preoccupied with this idea of a choreographic superstructure. But it’s true that Levée des conflits, enfant and manger really do form a bloc, a kind of trilogy. With danse de nuit, I’ve the feeling of returning to an energy closer to the kind found in Aatt enen tionon and Quintette cercle. Something physical and concentrated – a piece involving intervention.

Music and words don’t require the same kind of attention: words demand greater “concentration”. How are you going to combine the parameters of “speed” and “comprehension”?
It’s true that you can be “immersed” in music; the relationship is more “atmospheric”. For words, the question of how they are addressed is very important, particularly in the setting of the public space: what you say, how you say it, who you say it to. But as a result, words are harder to handle than the music – especially with regard to dance. I’d like to play with different levels of comprehension. When is it important to be heard? When does the voice get lost? For this piece, we’re going to work with the singer Dalila Khatir on the voice again. She was involved in manger and in other projects. She trained as a singer, but she’s also worked in theatre a lot so she’s not at all unfamiliar with working with words. She’s already taken part in Con Forts Fleuve based on words by John Giorno. She’s going to be very important for our work when it comes to levels of listening – on what is heard and how. At certain moments, the dancers mumble, repeat and play with different registers. But on the whole, there’s still the idea of being heard, of conveying something through the text. It’s not easy because as soon as you come out with the words… you can’t really put them back. It’s a risk, the risk of disconnecting – accentuated by the fact of talking very quickly. But that also reflects a kind of urgent need to speak.

One of the themes running through the project is drawing in reference to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. How did this end up being included in danse de nuit?
I thought a lot about the artists – mostly American artists – who created work after 9/11, with the feeling that in one sense it was impossible to avoid. In these works it was clear that these artists had to confront the event. Whether it is evoked consciously or not, it was an event that imposed itself on our consciousness. That had to be digested. In the public space, with the security issues that implies, we can’t think about attacks but at the same time it’s dangerous. It can quickly turn into a form of gargling or into a memorial playing on emotions. And at the same time again I have the feeling that you can’t avoid it. Whether you want to or not, you think about it, the dancers think about it, the spectators are going to think about it, so it’s up to us to deal with it. I think that speed is one possible treatment for it. Speed and profusion: carry along words, information, including Charlie Hebdo, drawings, death. But not just that. We’re tackling things in a roundabout way, starting with the question of satirical cartoons, the lifetime of the drawings. We’re going to talk more about Reiser – who died of cancer – than about Charb or Cabu. The texts will include a variety of things – I don’t know if I can mention them because a lot can change. I’ve the feeling that speed is what allows these pieces to crash into one another and connect – the voice and speed. In manger, we could combine Josquin Desprez, Beethoven and Christophe Tarkos, passing through a whole range of tonalities and sonorities. Here you just need one word to change the discourse, to move to another type of statement.

So speed is really the driving force in this piece…
Yes, it’s the driving force and a constraint at the same time: a constraint because it’s difficult and because there’s a risk that people won’t understand us. There’s an urgency, a struggle – within the texts themselves and in their enunciation. Both for the dance and for the text, everything is constructed and circulating around this speed/intelligibility axis. The faster you move, the less the gestures are sketched out. It’s a real challenge: managing to register a movement that passes very quickly. That’s what we’re trying to resolve at the moment. The objective being of course that it’s as rapid as it is intelligible, that it starts to vibrate. I’d like it to resemble a kind of particle accelerator! At the moment we’re looking for strategies to make it heard at top speed, like repetition: repeating, marking time, being at a virtual standstill until you connect with a new idea and it all starts up again.

Whether you’re talking about the space, the text, the gestures or the drawings, you get the feeling that this piece is trying to deal with recurrent notions: like being haunted or experiencing trauma…
The fact of working on “gestures that don’t pass”, gestures you’d like to do away with but that keep coming back, is a recurrent principle in my choreographic work, but also at the Musée de la danse. In the same way, the attack on Charlie Hebdo is an event that isn’t going to go away, it continues to come to mind. And at the same time this piece, a little like the next one, 10000 gestes, is addressed to another part of the Musée de la danse. Not that part which is close to memory or history, but rather to disappearance. It’s about the ephemeral or perishable aspect of dance – like the drawings. The basic idea is to create gestures that can immediately be erased without leaving any marks behind. Gestures made to be got rid of, gestures about which you can say that they won’t come back… Without doubt in all of it there’s something of a conspiracy, an exorcism about it…

Interviewed by Gilles Amalvi for the Festival d’Automne 2016
Translation: Claire Tarring

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Boris Charmatz (1973) is a dancer, choreographer and director of the Musée de la danse, the national choreographic centre of Rennes and Brittany. He subjects dance to formal constraints that redefine its field of possibilities. The stage serves as a rough draft with concepts and organic concentrates being thrown in to observe the chemical reactions, intensities and tensions created by their encounter. From Aatt enen tionon (1996) to danse de nuit (2016), he has created a series of pieces that have marked their epoch alongside his work as a performer and improviser (recently with Médéric Collignon, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Tino Sehgal). Associate artist of the 2011 Festival d’Avignon, Boris Charmatz premiered enfant, a piece for 26 children and 9 dancers, at the Cour d’honneur in the Palais des Papes, and offered Une école d’art, a joint Musée de la danse and Festival d’Avignon project. Invited to MoMA (New York) in 2013, he presented Musée de la danse: Three Collective Gestures, a three-part project on view in the museum’s spaces for three weeks. After first being invited in 2012, Boris Charmatz returned to Tate Modern (London) in 2015 with the project If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse? comprising previously unseen versions of the choreographic projects À bras-le-corps, Levée des conflits, manger, Roman Photo, expo zéro and 20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle. Also that year he opened the dance season at the Opéra national de Paris with 20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle and invited 20 dancers from the Ballet to perform solos from the last century in the public spaces of the Palais Garnier. This project was revived in 2016 at Tanzkongress (Hanover) and the Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid) with a different cast of dancers for every performance. On one Sunday in May 2015 and 2016, Boris Charmatz presented Fous de danse on the esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle in Rennes, an invitation to experience dance in all its forms and all its practices from midday to midnight. He is currently working on 10000 gestes, a creation for 25 dancers, which will be previewed at the Manchester International Festival (United Kingdom) in July 2017 and will premiere at the Volksbühne (Berlin) on the Tempelhof site in September 2017, where he will be associate artist. He has published several works: Entretenir/à propos d’une danse contemporaine (Centre national de la danse & Les Presses du réel, 2003) co-written with Isabelle Launay, Je suis une école (Éditions Les Prairies Ordinaires, 2009), a work about the adventure that was Bocal, and Emails 2009-2010 (Les Presses du réel & Musée de la danse, 2013) co-written with Jérôme Bel.

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