The performance Les Arpenteurs is born from a desire to unify dance and music, musicians and dancers, in a profound manner. Fruits of the meeting between artists who, for this event, initiate work methods in an attempt to cross their respective fields even further, this performance brings to the stage seven dancers and six percussionists. It is the occasion for each participant to feed his or her creativity in the universe of another. Michèle Noiret, choreographer of desire, of intimacy, of the imaginary and the troublesome, has, since her work with Stockhausen,
Dance and music have since the beginning of time been indivisible. Here, their union will once again be celebrated in a performance in which choreography exhausts its images in the universe of the city, escapades, solitudes and crowds. Metaphor that makes the dancers and the percussionist an allegory of social body, Les Arpenteurs meet, appear and are erased in an imaginary city, a city born from thought, in which the paths of some magnetise the paths of others.
In the same manner as the artists of this project approach the field of the others with differing results, the choreographic characters evolve through meeting in their search for a clue, an object, a trace that will show them what their destiny is in this city... Acity that never reveals itself in its entirety, but only by fragments, by translucent portions, by singular irreparable perspectives. The areas rub off on the beings, who in turn transform space.
The dancers of Compagnie Michèle Noiret survey this changing landscape of skyscrapers, reviewing scenes of urban life and translating them into the movements of phenomena such as fear and exiguity, threat and violence, but also other, pleasant, almost cheerful facets, of human interactions. (...) An evening overflowing with fascinating visual experiences, having in store a pleasant, aesthetic experience of the body (...). Just like the clever, miserly lighting, which uses little light and much shadow or drowns the façades in cold, metallic colours, the music amplifies the turmoil of sensations. Noises of machines, storm and percussions add the finishing touches to the scene.”
Michèle Noiret – a choreographer par excellence of poetry and space – is considered one of the most brilliant figures in the world of dance. So it is nice to see that on more than one occasion Noiret has chosen Seville’s Teatro Central for the Spanish premieres of her creations. (...) Almost ninety minutes go by between delicacy and brutality in a dance full of energy and lifts whose dangerousness passes almost unnoticed thanks to the apparent ease of their execution. The wonderful elements in this work include Xavier Lauwers’ lighting which creates a dramatic or delicate ambiance as required, depending on the demands of a dance whose energetic staging makes no concession to an audience that has understood it."
A lavish stage and enveloping music are what stand out most in this new creation by the choreographer Michèle Noiret and composer François Paris, two renowned European creators who have joined forces to offer a reflection on intimacy in a large city. The formal elements are as spectacular as they are impeccable. The impressive stage design by Alain Lagarde and the wonderful lighting by Xavier Lauwers have recreated a cinematographic atmosphere, particularly at the start when the dance begins an interesting interplay which delights in measuring bodies using the space. With unparalleled technical virtuosity and movements of remarkable clarity, the dancers continually move from the inner space to the outer space to embark on a disturbing relationship and create a series of images that return us to surrealism. The dancers brush against and collide with one another on several occasions, covering the entire stage. (...) Another change – live music – takes us back to the outer space where the choreography attains magnificence by alternating duets, trios and quartets while the seven dancers remain on stage."
Les Arpenteurs, Michèle Noiret’s latest work, is magnificently representative of this Brussels-based artiste who is still insufficiently well known to the French public. Michèle Noiret is a choreographer of good maturity, greatly concerned with finishing things properly. The movement of her ‘choreographic characters’ reveals an intense plasticity, together with a captivating rigour. Sparkling, they explore the labyrinths of an unsuspected, dream-like and powerfully feminine reality, quivering with the turmoil and impulses of the modern world. Michèle Noiret cultivates apposite collaborations with the major artists of late 20th century developments. For Les Arpenteurs, Les Percussions de Strasbourg interprets an original score by François Paris. Their presence on the stage alongside the dancers intensifies the lustre of this abundant, shimmering, true piece."
Michèle Noiret, François Paris and Les Percussions de Strasbourg link up in a treatment as audacious as it is detailed of the perception of the world by those that travel around it every day. Save some rare exceptions, the music is played live by the six percussionists spread around a stage, which they visit from time to time to mingle with Michèle Noiret’s biting, sleek choreography. She tends to present the seven dancers with a sound trampoline, as it were, on which their bodies bounce in sensuousness, even eroticism. In this remarkably written partition, François Paris manages to give an almost palpable texture to the space of these beings, which practice the enigmatic gestures of archers, discus throwers and, of course, surveyors."
It is there that seven dancers meet, colliding and finding themselves fatally connected by violent desires and aggressive impulses, while they strike around themselves, running and trying to avoid each other and themselves, in a kind of spiral of fear. In the ambient madness and frenzy, one almost forgets that their movements are the product of extreme precision and that it is all perfectly controlled dance theatre. (…) An evening one does not come out of unscathed."
The athletically and aesthetically very present dancers express human contacts, relationships and obsessions with restricted gestures in an arc of suspense ranging between brutal attacks and delicate poetry. After a solid hour of impressive modern dance theatre all of the protagonists in the Austrian premiere were greeted with huge applause."
To the seven dancers of Compagnie Michèle Noiret were added the six musicians of Percussions de Strasbourg. The rendezvous took place in a collective movement, the gesture of the choreographer Michèle Noiret dived into the score of François Paris, the music of Paris, blending percussion and electronic sounds, crossing these new waters that cause so many carnations to undulate. (…) It is a breathing that this creation manages to impart to the spectator, a breathing that is alternatively enthusiastic, coveted or held in contempt, inducing dance even in houses perhaps inhibited by the dancers. They, simply by their presence, question the bass drumstick that beats, on both sides of the stage, reveals the corporality of the instrumentalists. Sensuality itself leaves the private domain, the great cold walls no longer hide their eyes – those of the musicians, ours."
Movements oblige, the choreographer Michèle Noiret and her company concoct Les Arpenteurs, a show created in Brussels in May and reprised for Manca at the Théâtre national de Nice. The music is by François Paris, a sign that the work was destined to be celebrated in these places. An electro-acoustic treatment, Cirm technology (the Nice equivalent of Ircam, and Manca’s parent company), in repetitive crystalline touches, precedes the contribution of Percussions de Strasbourg. The latter also play flowing sounds punctuated by rare sound explosions. One alternates with the other, with rare instances of fusion. Into this sound web are inserted the elaborate oscillations of the dancers, in always innovative and mixed gestures. Like a supple, perpetually changing swell. Noiret’s art is consumed, and you can only watch how the instrumentalists seem participate in the movements, without differentiation, to feel the subtlety of her language."
Les Arpenteurs drift in an atmosphere of fantastic and poetic cinema dear to the choreographer. (…) In this universe favourable to fantasies, the Surveyors explore the exterior and interior distances, passing from an image to a dream, from reality that shies away from the statement of a sentence murmured then written in neon letters: «We march with eyes shut towards the being that we are»."
There was a lot of movement in the major piece Les Arpenteurs, presented by the Belgian company Michèle Noiret at the Théâtre National in Nice with the accompaniment of the incredible Percussions de Strasbourg, genuine innovators of contemporary chamber music, artists of maturity. In it, the original composition by François Paris has found the perfect transition between ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ an enigmatic, fascinating open city, orchestrated by a scenography itself choreographic and served by a group of male and female dancers outside of classical norms. A décor that could have been the gigantic installation of a contemporary artist just like the fluorescent tubes – descendents of those made by Dan Flavin – of the sentence, split into five parts, «We walk with eyes closed towards the being we are». A formidable project that has achieved symbiosis between dance and music, whose movements need to be followed."
Les Arpenteurs takes the form of veritable ‘dance cinema’ on a score written by François Paris, who composes musical worlds of astonishing richness."
The choreographed characters develop by coming together in search of a sign, an object, a trace that would teach them their destiny in this city, a city that never discovers itself entirely, but only in fragments, by twilight, by irremediably singular perspectives. Places run into beings, everything is transformed into space. Mimicry, osmosis, fusion more than mélange, alliance. Alchemy goes to work and a miracle happens. A hybrid creation, never before seen, is born…"
When the percussion section springs into action, when all the dancers become immersed in a hugely entertaining choreographic sequence on a sofa, Michèle Noiret hits the jackpot. She may therefore create sensual duos, introduce fantastic "twins" - black and blond - and then return to the city streets, without losing the plot, and public to boot. Michèle Noiret has managed to blend her choreographic skills with the splendid music played during rhythmically powerful moments and the episodes where the voices are little more than murmurs. Xavier Lauwers' lighting effects are an essential underpinning for Les Arpenteurs, helping to keep track of the choreographer's paradoxical analysis: «We advance with closed eyes towards the beings we are»."
A man standing on a deserted, half-lit stage. He waits alone with a rectangular light. Other individuals join him bit by bit, jostling for elbow room in this illuminated space like passengers in a lift. Les Arpenteurs opens against the background of this image of an urban setting where beings press against each other, without seeing each other, whitout exchanging a word. Michèle Noiret's first production since arriving at the Théâtre National, this work for seven dancers and six musicians unfolds on every area of the huge stage. The background is a universe of towers (magnificent stage design by Alain Lagarde) where the characters slither around like insects in an oversized world. A voice whispers: "I always have the feeling that what I see is not life, but an expectation of life." Recycling the idea that figures large in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire", Michèle Noiret allows us to intrude upon the thoughts of the characters performing on the stage. They move back and forth, travelling the length and breadth of the city landscape. An intimate interlude flares up from time to time. A hand seizes a young women and she disappears behind a facade. A couple appears, caught in a torrid grip."
The exemplary dialogue in real time between the various artistic fields is one of the most impressive features of the Belgian choreographer's latest work. The production has been tailor-made by artists enjoying solid reputations. The composer François Paris' original music is performed by the six musicians from the impressively xylophone-heavy Percussions de Strasbourg, the opera set designer Alain Lagarde has created the outline of an invisible, ghost-like urban environment, with its towers (some coloured yellow or green) that ends up moving in an increasingly threatening and enshrouding way. Not forgetting Xavier Lauwers, the lighting wizard, who succeeds once more in sublimating the atmosphere. He deploys gigantic shadows and focal highlights to produce a process of consolidation while spurring us on into the vague, threatening and dream-like atmosphere. The seven supple, dramatically expressive dancers help to ensure Les Arpenteurs is brimming over with magnificently physical, ambiguous and violent experiences. Performing in pairs, threesomes and as a group, these artists treat us to the sight of elaborate movements and precisely-executed gestures. MichèleNoiret uses this eminently accessible, top-quality choreographical work (...) to launch the first "dance residency" at the Théâtre National."
Seven dancers and six musicians from the tremendous Percussions de Strasbourg group, pace up and down the huge Théâtre National stage. They cross a sinister-looking, disturbing city (stage design by Alain Lagarde), in an atmosphere sublimated by Xavier Lauwers. An atmosphere that is more akin to life on the silver screen than on the stage. Groups form, disperse, fight, make love. The music composed by François Paris provides a jumpstart or is conducive to withdrawal, dispersal in sound or visual space, or a concentration on more intimate locations. The dream leads the dance, fantasy dictates the law. A huge sofa underpins the entire group's various feats of amatory virtuosity, a tiny white room provides an opportunity for the most intimate fantasies to unfold. The dancers' display of virtuosity at breathtaking speed or at a snail's pace is dazzling (...). As for the six percussionists, their vibratory skills are second to none!"
Cast & credits
Creation in May 2007 at Théâtre National in Brussels in copresentation with De Munt/La Monnaie.
Conception Compagnie Michèle Noiret and François Paris
A project initiated by Jean-Paul Bernard, director of Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Choreography Michèle Noiret
Original music composition François Paris
Choreographic assistant Pascale Gigon / On tour Dominique Duszynski
Musical informatic realisation Alexis Baskind / On tour Julien Aléonard
Danced by and created with
Elena Borghese, Julie Devigne, Dominique Godderis, Matthieu Guénégou, Nicolas Hubert, Isael Mata, Lise Vachon
Les Percussions de Strasbourg Jean-Paul Bernard (artistic direction), Claude Ferrier, Bernard Lesage, Keiko Nakamura, François Papirer, Olaf Tzschoppe
Set design and costumes Alain Lagarde
Model assistant Mathieu Bianchi
Technical assistant Hélène Herbeau
Costumes Assistant Patricia Eggerickx
Lighting design Xavier Lauwers
Technical direction Christian Halkin
Lighting technician Marc Lhommel
Sound engineer CIRM Nicolas Déflache / On tour Julien Aléornard
Instruments technician Laurent Fournaise, Martial Kiene
Stage technicians Christophe Blacha
Set and costumes making Ateliers du Théâtre National, Bruxelles
Driver/machinist Jean-Jacques Van Binnebeek
Photographer Sergine Laloux
Artistic collaboration Pascal Chabot
Production & tour manager Amandine Rimbert
Communication & press Alexandra de Laminne
Administration & coordination Cathy Zanté
Duration 85 min
Executive producers Compagnie Michèle Noiret/Tandem asbl
Producer CIRM, Centre National de Création Musicale (Nice) · Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Coproducers Théâtre National de la Communauté française · De Munt/La Monnaie · Charleroi-Danses, centre chorégraphique de la Communauté française · Théâtre de Namur, centre dramatique · La Filature, Scène nationale - Mulhouse · Arts 276/Automne en Normandie · Le-Maillon, Théâtre de Strasbourg – Scène Européenne · Musica, Festival international des musiques d’aujourd’hui (Strasbourg) · Pôle Sud, Scène conventionnée pour la danse et la musique (Strasbourg).
Produced with the support of the Ministry of Communauté française Wallonie-Bruxelles, Service de la Danse.
François Paris is director of CIRM, Centre National de Création Musicale and of Festival MANCA, in Nice.
The Compagnie Michèle Noiret is subsidized by Le Ministère de la Communauté française Wallonie-Bruxelles, Service de la Danse and receives the regular help of Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI).
Michèle Noiret is member of the Académie royale de Belgique.