Taking hands, raising a clenched fist, holding each other, a kiss…
For more than ten years, choreographer Joanne Leighton has meticulously collected photographs of people gathering together. From celebration to protest to ritual, from one side of the world to another, nearly a thousand images make up this corpus. This atlas of images is the starting point for a new dance work entitled People United, which, after 9000 Steps and Songlines, completes a trilogy of work dedicated to universal, shared movements.
Nine stunning dancers melt into these photos and bring them to flesh in scenes of jubilation, demonstration, carneval, and dance. Joanne Leighton’s movement vocabulary is authentic and raw. The dancers bring to life different people from diverse origins, men, women and children, without ever imitating them. They are inhabited by the memories of sites of the images and framed by the scenography, a perpetual wind, which seems to come from another time.
A layered soundscape composed by Peter Crosbie intertwines the work, featuring brass bands, percussion, celebratory songs and speeches from Martin Luther King to Greta Thunberg.
Through the repetition of images, juxtaposition and layering, the piece is like a moving cartography of visual knowledge, the group seem to bring back ancestral gestures. These movements unite us all and form the basis of our humanity. Tender or provocative, sheltered or exposed, between chaos and immobility, their bodies give rise to a powerful physical language, both familiar and shared.
Based in Paris Ile-de-France, Joanne Leighton is a Belgian-Australian choreographer and pedagogue. Her professional career is linked to an original, dynamic and constantly evolving vision of dance and her discourse is permeated by an emphasis on dialogue and exchange, both with the public and with her artistic collaborators. Central to her work lies the notion of site, territory and identity, which are for Joanne Leighton interdependent spaces.
Joanne Leighton is the representative choreographer of the administrative council of the SACD (French Society of Composers and Dramatic Authors) and the Beaumarchais 2018 – 2020. She is also a member of the administrative council of La Maison du Geste et de l'Image in Paris.
After dancing in the Australian Dance Theater (1986-1991), Joanne Leighton moved to Europe, living and performing in London for 2 years. Her company Velvet was formed in Brussels from 1993 - 2010, where she established her choreographic work, active for over 18 years. She was choreographer in residence at the Raffinery - Charleroi/Danses (2003-2005) and Les Halles de Schaerbeek (2005-2007). In 1994 and in 2010 she received the SACD Prize (Society of Composers and Dramatic Authors) for her choreographic work. Joanne Leighton has been commissioned to create work for international companies such as the Dance Theater of Ireland (2001); in Belgium for Charleroi Danses (2005); in France for the Ballet de Lorraine (2014) and in Switzerland for the company Marchepied (2015).
Director of the National Choreographic Center of Franche-Comté in Belfort in France (2010 – 2015), Joanne Leighton formed WLDN in 2015. WLDN is a project, philosophy and platform for her choreographic research and creation. Her works have been performed nationally and internationally in theaters, urban and industrial spaces, art galleries, town squares, on rooftops and presented on screens and smartphones. Joanne Leighton's choreographic work has been co-produced and presented on international stages for over 20 years, with over 30 productions touring to France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Netherlands, Wales, the United Kingdom, Australia and Cuba.
Joanne Leighton’s choreographic work includes Corps Exquis (2019) a piece for 3 dancers around an exquisite corpse for 58 choreographers; I am sitting in a room, a movement study of the sitting position performed by four poetic clowns on the eponymous text by American composer Alvin Lucier; Exquisite Corpse (2012) an exquisite corpse for 7 dancers ; Made in…Series, a large scale ‘architecture in movement’ for 99 participants performed in situ and (re)created in France, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Cuba; The Modulables, a series of site-specific pieces between installation and performance with an ambulatory public, which have been evolving over a period of 10 years. In 2014, Joanne Leighton and the director Christoph Frick co-sign Melting Pot for 9 young performers from immigrant backgrounds, a cultural exchange between the Theater Freiburg, the CCN of Belfort and Junges Theater Basel. Chair Dances, an evolutive virtual digital gallery comprising over 30 short choreographic films by diverse choreographers involving chairs, was initiated by Joanne Leighton in 2010.
In 2015 Joanne Leighton initiated a trilogy of works which will span 5 years with her signature piece 9000 Steps, performed by six dancers on a bed of salt to the music Drumming, Steve Reich. This work was followed in 2018 with Songlines, for eight dancers, created to the fascinating musical composition In C by Terry Riley. This trilogy will conclude with her production People United in 2021.
In September 2011, Joanne Leighton launched her large scale work, The Vigil, whereby each morning and evening at sunrise and sunset over 365 days, a participant holds watch over the city for one hour, a work for 730 inhabitants and performed over 365 consecutive days. Around these same principals this choreography has been mounted for the towns Belfort (September 2011 – September 2012) ; Laval (15th September 2012 – 15th September 2013) ; Rennes (30th September 2012 – 29th September 2013) Haguenau (1st January – 31st December 2015), Freiburg, Germany (20th June 2015 – 19th June 2016) and Evreux, France for the Le Tangram, Scène Nationale (22nd September 2017 – 22nd September 2018) ; Dordrecht, for the Schouwburg Kunstmin in Holland (1st Mai 2019 – 30th April 2020) , and eigth project, The Graz Vigil Austria (1st January 2020 - 31st December 2020) for La Strada, is currently in performance. The Münich Vigil - Türmer München, is due to start shortly (12th December 12th 2020 - 12th December 2021) ; along with The Hull Vigil (20th March 2021 - 19th March 2022) for the Freedom Festival of Hull in the United Kingdom.
In parallel to this work, Joanne Leighton initiated a series of walking pieces as with Walk#1 Belfort – Freiburg, where she walked a path between two Vigil sites by following waterways over 127 kms in four days. Since 2014 these ‘walking dances’ are part of her choreographic practice. In September 2017, Joanne Leighton mounted Walk, a performance over 25 km linking the four theaters of Paris Réseau Danse, with an open call for participants to join her. Her work Salt Circle concluded this unique event at Atelier de Paris/CDCN. Her walking projects such as Walking as Remembering (2019) weave into her choreographic practice and stage work.
An internationally recognized pedagogue, Joanne Leighton regularly gives lectures and workshops. She has taught for companies such as Jean-Claude Gallotta, Catherine Diverrès, Angelin Preljocaj, Trisha Brown Company, Batsheva Company, Charleroi / Danses, AMNT in Tokyo, Need Company, Rosas, Wim Vandekeybus, and dance centers like the Seoul International Choreographic Center (South Korea); The Menagerie de Verre, Paris; Centre National Danse in Paris; Atelier de Paris / CDCN; PARTS; Dansens House in Copenhagen; and the Croatian Institute for Movement and Dance / Zagreb Dance Center. She has also taught in art schools such as the fine arts school in Toulouse.
Interested in finding new ways of being, doing, thinking, working, making and presenting, Joanne Leighton seeks to embrace a radically different approach to access, ownership, and authorship in contemporary dance performance.
WLDN / Joanne Leighton
WLDN is a project and a philosophy at the same time. The title references the renowned book Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American essayist, teacher, philosopher, naturalist and poet. This novel, published in 1854, influenced many schools of thought and served as a reference for those seeking to reconnect with basic values. Thoreau recounts his two years experience living independently in the middle of nature.
WLDN can be portrayed as a kind of ‘transcendental striptease’, which represents for me coming back to the fundamental essence and a simplifying of work, of stripping down, but also, back to the most elemental, even the most primordial aspects of performance in terms of dance, movement, and site. This simplicity can and does involve stage work and public space work but also includes productions of the kind of work that can easily be documented and published with the tools at hand which includes platforms such as social media : iphone, internet, facebook…
What is it in Thoreau’s action that can be mirrored in our changing cultural landscape with the contemporary tools we have in creating, recording, notating, publishing, dissemination ?
Artistic direction / Conception : Joanne Leighton
Choreography : Joanne Leighton
Choreography assistance : Marie Fonte
Interpretation : Lauren Bolze, Marion Carriau, Alexandre Da Silva, Marie Fonte, Yannick Hugron, Philippe Lebhar, Maureen Nas, Thalia Provost, Bi-Jia Yang
Set design : Joanne Leighton
Original music : Peter Crosbie
Video conception : Antoine Billet
Lights : Sylvie Mélis
Costumes : Alexandra Bertaut
Technical direction : François Blet
Other collaborations : Assistante de fin de production: Flore Khoury
Production / Coproduction of the choreographic work : Production WLDN | Coproduction Espace 1789 de Saint Ouen, Scène conventionnée d'intérêt national - art et création - pour la danse ; Les Quinconces-L’espal, Scène nationale du Mans ; Collectif Essonne Danse ; Chorège | CDCN Falaise Normandie ; Atelier de Paris / CDCN ; CCN de Rillieux-la-Pape, direction Yuval Pick ; CCN-Ballet National de Marseille ; L’Onde Théâtre Centre d’Art, Vélizy - Villacoublay | Avec le soutien du Carreau du Temple, Paris ; la Briqueterie / CDCN du Val-de-Marne ; L’Essieu du Batut ; Chaillot, Théâtre national de la Danse |
Production / Coproduction of the video work : Une captation des Films de l'éphémère | Réalisée le 5 mai 2021 au théa^tre de l'Aquarium Festival June events de l'Atelier de Paris / CDCN | Réalisation et montage Antoine Billet | Cadre Marie Deshaye | Mixage Peter Crosbie | Production déléguée AKKA création
Duration : 1h15