Michèle Noiret confronts languages

Didier Béclard

Demandez le programme, April 2019

Compagnie Michèle Noiret is experiencing a productive period. After presenting DÉSIRS, a very beautiful duo, at the Festival XS, Théâtre National, this week the choreographer proposes another short form, Vertèbre, at Les Brigittines. Two events that give us the opportunity to meet and take an interest in her work.


DÉSIRS is based on a personal text written while “in love”, which was not meant to be shared. “Working on the basis of desire and where it can lead tickled me. I didn’t want to talk directly about myself, but I was curious to let myself be swept along by emotions to produce the subject of the dance, share it with my partner Liza Penkova and devise unexpected scenes with her. All this while incorporating the work on interactive technology I develop with the composer Todor Todoroff. The other text that grabbed me was the beginning of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: passing to the other side of the looking glass allowed me to create distance and a measure of humour!” Desire and its many reflections, including violence, as in the moment that oscillates between video game and the reality of an urban guerrilla, in which the dancer Liza Penkova wears motion sensors that generate sounds directly related to her every movement, amplifying their range: one thinks of fascism, terrorism. “Désirs is a condensed form whose structure is based on discontinuity, accident, rupture. Four moments of life or death linked by the underlying fragment of a text of love, albeit solitary.”


Vertèbre, created and danced in 1989, 29 years ago, will be performed by Sara Tan. “I wanted this transmission in the form of an exchange. By sharing my expertise, my personal experiences as a researcher, performer and choreographer, I also convey an era, a story,” Michèle Noiret says. “The solo is a form in which the invention of language is very personal. It’s not just about describing movements in order to convey them. It’s indispensable to find the internal dynamism of all the processes that one has brought into play, to find the origin of the states of body, intentions. A work that entails movement as much as words. I am transmitting this solo to Sara, a young dancer with a strong, singular personality, curious, perceptive, sensitive and reacting to every detail. It’s what made me want to retain only half of the solo and to reinvent the other half with her. Giving each other the time to improvise, like I did with Liza Penkova in DÉSIRS and with David Drouard in the Palimpseste duo, is a form of resistance. Whether for transmission or a creation, taking the time, whatever it costs, becomes almost a political act, running counter to an era in which everything has to be fast, consumable and profitable."


More generally, the choreographer loves to think up, to describe her work, the term that suits it, like choreographic characters or Dance-Cinema. “It’s important to me to bring out the inner life, to constantly produce a subtext that renders emotions palpable and feeds the singularity of an always incarnate presence.” Among the recurring, fundamental aspects of her vocabulary, she feels, is taking account of the expression. “It determines a presence on stage and can transform the perception of space.” It’s not by accident that the image and the cameras, multiplying the points of view and defying time, were introduced into her creations at a very early stage. They reveal the hidden face of a space or a character, capture the emotion that the naked eye does not see, unveil simultaneously a movement in profile and from the back, and offer so many mixtures of compositions to be explored.


With Le chant des ruines, its next evocatively titled creation, the company will have a creation residence at the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris between 9 and 27 April 2019. In Belgium, it will premiere at the Biennale de Charleroi danse on 4-5 October 2019, with performances at the Théâtre National in Brussels on 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 February 2020 as part of Troika, the new partnership involving La Monnaie, KVS and the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles, which aims to develop a shared artistic programme in the capital.

This creation will bring together all the ingredients that form the basis and specificity of Michèle Noiret’s work, they will be reinvented and purified. “Prior workshops have given a glimpse of new perspectives for the invention of a dance-cinema more in accord with the situation and the reduced means of the company now.” A purified composition, then, fusing dance, cinema, interactive sound technology, scenographic metamorphosis, all brought by five performers with strong personalities. The choreographer reacts to the disturbing and violent ambient chaos that confuses the world, albeit without stripping it of all hope. “I wonder about the lack of an anchor in today’s world and its perpetual changes, which prevent human beings from learning an enduring lesson from their experiences.”

The influences she acknowledges come from the cinema, of course, of David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, but also of Andrei Tarkovsky, in the performing arts the choreographer cites Trisha Brown, who devised and shared many tools of choreographic creation now used by so many choreographers, the theatre director Katie Mitchell and her 2011 adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie in Kristin, nach Fraulein Julie, which used five cameras in a skilful shot reverse shot. “I was preparing my show Hors-champ (2013) and I recognised in this piece part of what I would invent with dance-cinema,” the choreographer says. There is also Heiner Goebbels with the piece Eraritjaritjaka, at the 2005 Kunstfestivaldesarts: “the use that he made of video in this piece particularly impressed me, as did the formidable performance of the actor André Wilms, with whom I recently imagined a project that was never fleshed out… The ideas often arise from unexpected situations, a trigger for the intuition of a new perception that it is important to cultivate in its own creation development.”

She concludes: “I am careful not to retreat into a language, it’s one of the reasons I choose to use the techniques of cinema or the new interactive technologies, without ever putting them forward as a means of expression rather than demonstration. Is the role of the artist, while interrogating the world, not also to delight it again, inspire, activate the imagination of everyone?”


Friday, 5 April 2019