François Raffinot is a French choreographer born on January 1st, 1953, in Paris.
He discovered his love for the arts at a fairly early age. At 10, he remembers he was marked by modern and contemporary music and, in particular, that of the composers Edgar Varèse, with his Electronic Poem, and Belà Bartók.
He pursued his studies at the Montaigne and Louis-le-Grand grammar schools where his interest in theatre quickly gave way to dance. At the age of 16, on holiday, he watched Nomos Alpha by Maurice Béjart, a ballet created in Royan in 1969 to a music by Iannis Xenakis. This association of dance and music made a deep impression on the young man.
At the age of 17, he enrolled in the classical dance classes given by Igor Fosca at the salle Pleyel. At the same time, he watched many shows and, in particular, those of Merce Cunningham at the Théâtre de l'Odéon.
In 1973, aged 20, he auditioned for the Théâtre du Silence, a company then directed by Jacques Garnier and Brigitte Lefèvre. He then settled in Grenoble, where he danced for Félix Blaska and at the Ballet de poche where he met the choreographer Alain Deshayes, in whom he found an ideal interlocutor. After a short stay in Rouen in early 1975, he tried his hand at theatre and cabaret in London, playing in particular at the Roundhouse in La Grande Eugène by Frantz Salieri. This enabled him to further his culture of cabaret and music-hall.
Alain Deshayes also put him in contact with Jean-Claude Malgoire, a leading specialist of baroque music. The two men worked together for the first time in 1974 for the remounting of Les Indes galantes, an opera-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau.
In 1975 and 1976 he performed with the Peter Goss company, where Dominique Bagouet also danced, and actively participated in the choreographic collective Watercress. At the same time, he began his own research into ancient dances, especially based on the dances of Guillaume-Louis Pécour noted by Raoul-Auger Feuillet. Viviane Serry, who was a member ofWatercress then introduced him to Francine Lancelot. In 1978 he decided to resume his studies and to follow classes for a philosophy degree at the Paris IV-Sorbonne University.
We can then identify 5 major periods in François Raffinot’s artistic career, corresponding to the different structures (cultural institutions or companies) within which he developed his creations: Ris & Danceries, which he first joined as an interpreter in 1980 but then went on to co-direct (1984 to 1989), the Barocco company (1990-1992), the Le Havre – Haute-Normandie CCN, Ircam (1999-2002) and, last but not least, the Snarc (2002-2013).
In 1980 he joined Ris & Danceries, Francine Lancelot’s company, whose work on baroque dances held special meaning for him. He became a dancer and an interpreter there. Alongside Francine Lancelot, he re-appropriated and reinvented dances from the 15th to the 18th century. With her, he directed the company as from 1984. He won acclaim by choreographing the divertissements d’Hippolyte et Aricie (1985) directed by William Christie, as per a staging by Pier-Luigi Pizzi, and by re-inventing the design of Bal et ballets à la cour de Louis XIV (1987). However, François Raffinot began to make a name for himself by devoting himself to his own writing of baroque dance, proposing his Suitte d'un goût étranger set to music by Marin Marais, a piece for which he asked Andy De Groat, Dominique Bagouet and Robert Kovich to join the project. This was followed by Caprice (1986) and Passacailles (1987). In 1988 he worked once again with the conductor Jean-Claude Malgoire for the recreations of Zéphyre (1988) and Platée (1989).
In 1990 he left Francine Lancelot’s company and, together with Guilène Lloret, set up the company Barroco. Ever since, he has dedicated himself to writing a new aesthetics of baroque dance with an aim to instilling in it greater contemporaneity. He reflects, in particular, on the relationship between dance and music. For this reason, he created, at the Festival Montpellier Danse, Garden-Party ou les surprises de la conversation for which the English composer Michael Nyman produced the musical themes. In 1991 he staged, with Jean-Claude Malgoire as musical director Les Fêtes vénitiennes, the first part of which consists of extracts from the eponymous opera by André Campra, and the second of Pulcinella by Igor Stravinski. The following year, he choreographed Alceste, Jean-Baptiste Lully’s lyric tragedy, before staging Les Barricades mystérieuses, a trio created for the dancers of the Jeune Ballet de France. Were we to ask him about his research into the baroque world, he would say that “he has retained from these studies and activities a taste for the flamboyant, for machinery, illusion, and all that is excessive”.
In 1993 he was appointed co-director, with Guilène Lloret, of the Le Havre – Haute-Normandie National Choreographic Centre. For his first season, he created Les Météores. In his own words, the piece paved the way for a new era of creation, encouraging a freer and more personal style. For the Avignon Festival, in July 1994, he created Adieu, a piece set to music by Pascal Dusapin. In August that same year he presented Linden, as part of the Berlin Tanz Im August festival. The Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg was asked to compose the music. Adieu and Linden would then often be played together during the same show. In 1995, Pascal Dusapin was once again asked to compose the music for his new creation Sin arrimo y con arrimo. The title was inspired by a poem by Saint John of the Cross. In 1996 Au-delà was commissioned by the Komische Oper Berlin. The piece, interpreted by German dancers, is performed to musics by Giacinto Scelsi. A few months later, Scandal Point was presented at the 50th edition of the Avignon Festival. The piece strikes us by the use of Salman Rushdie’s voice and the very rock and roll title of the British band The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil. Having created the decors for Sin arrimo y con arrimo, the plastic artist Agnès Lévy collaborated again with Fançois Raffinot for Rift, created for the 1997 Octobre en Normandie festival. For his last year as the centre’s director, he created Remix to musics by György Ligeti and Heiner Goebbels. We owe him, during this same period, the conception and the first edition of Vif du Sujet in 1996, a SACD choreographic event at the Avignon Festival.
In 1999 François Raffinot set up the choreographic department of Ircam (Institute for research and coordination in acoustics/music), of which he was the director. The aims of this new department are “to set up a programme to raise awareness of choreographic art, to determine areas for audio-visual research corresponding to those of the research department, drive the development of certain techniques hand in hand with the pedagogical department, to promote exchanges between young choreographers and young composers by means of specific musical commissions, and to encourage the presence on stage of instrumentalists or singers alongside dancers”. Indeed, for the Agora Festival, François Raffinot created the piece Play-Back to a music by Edmund J. Campion, in June 1999, commissioned by Ircam and the SACD. In 2000 he worked closely with Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh, one of his most loyal interpreters, and with the composer Yan Maresz, for the piece Al Segno. Last, but not least, in 2001, he presented P.R. / On Line (Home studio) to Anthème 2 by Pierre Boulez and Animus by Luca Francesconi.
Stepping down in July 2002, he then set up his own structure, SNARC (Nomad site for choreographic research workshops) to devote himself to research and pedagogical laboratories focused on the body and the new technologies (dance/music/image). Witness to this is pas_de_direction that he created with the composer François Sarhan and the videographer Magali Desbazeille. This piece was designed for 3 performers. He then produced a series of Laboratoires: Rebound's Lab with the percussionist and stage director Roland Auzet, Totem for an acrobat, Salomé, Salon littéraire for 4 writers and Set, a piece for 7 women from different artistic backgrounds (March 2006). Alongside these projects, in 2005 he entered into a 3-year residency at the Arsenal de Metz where he created Set, a piece for 7 women from different artistic backgrounds (March 2006). He also became a member of the Centre des arts of Enghien-les-Bains. Since 2009, François Raffinot has been regularly invited to hold theoretical classes in art schools and universities, and publishes works, articles and fictions.
He was a philosophy teacher at the Lycée Steiner-Waldorff Perceval at Châtou from 2010 to 2015.
He has published 2 books and a number of papers on choreography. He is also a fiction writer.