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Dance and props
From the end of 19th century, props have made it possible to enlarge the body, to extend or constrain the dance. This duo of body/object may well be the hallmark of the transition to modernism and gave rise to the diversity of 20th century dance, with its many schools and styles.
La danse serpentine - Loïe Fuller
Butterfly woman, flower woman, fire woman, with her use of lights and veils it's fair to say that the first dancer to choreograph with props was Loïe Fuller. She became one of the queens of the Belle Époque and the first modern artist to perform solo outside the traditional ballets and the revue shows.
Loïe Fuller developed a very personal dance style based on an extremely widespread genre from the music hall stages: "the Skirt Dance". She was freed from rules and conventions, and in some ways she invented the multi-media performance.
Parade – Serge de Diaghilev
During the 1920s, the coming together of the visual and the performing arts strongly influenced choreography, which began to adapt dance to the physical reality of the costumes and the props. In the famous performance of the Ballets Russes, Parade, each dancer is a character subjected to a type of dance influenced by the costume or the prop they wear or carry. According to Jean Cocteau, writer of the scenario, the costumes and set of Parade “far from hindering the choreographer, obliged him to break with tradition”. Parade is often regarded as the first modern ballet.
La danse des bananes - Joséphine Baker
At the height of the Roaring Twenties, Joséphine Baker, star of the Revue Nègre, inspired a new passion for all things concerning African art. With her mischievous airs and her comical belt made of bananas, mixing jazz, Charleston and primitive dance, Josephine Baker and her outfits overturned all the clichés and accepted ideas of this 20th century world simultaneously fascinated by exoticism and ill at ease with everything foreign to European culture.
Sanctum et Imago – Alwin Nikolaïs
In the 1950s and 60s, Alwin Nikolaïs xperimented with bodies and space. To realise his concept of total theatre, he created his own music, sets and lights. He made a great deal of use of masks and props: “masks so that the dancer becomes something different, something other; and props to further increase his physical size in space. An American critic said: “With Nikolaïs, the dancers become the props and the props dance.”
Today, contemporary choreographers continue to experiment with these dancing objects, which have become true creative partners. These artists often use a mix of circus arts, installation art and contemporary dance. They free the props from their previous sole purpose as performance aids and give them a new poetic sense of elation and grace. »
100% polyester, objet dansant n°(à définir) – Christian Rizzo
100 % polyester, objet dansant n° (à définir) a short poetic gem created by Christian Rizzo and Cathy Olive makes the props dance. Only the wind coming from the ventilators placed on the stage allows the two tunics to intertwine, to turn and to be personified by the Aeolian movement. After training in visual arts and a brief flirtation with fashion design, Christian Rizzo fuses installation art and performance, using both artists and object on stage.
Cavale - Yoann Bourgeois
Yoann Bourgeois, choreographer, juggler, artist, concerned above all with the instability of the body and of objects, promotes the idea of an “aesthetic of risk” made of plays of vertigo.
In Cavale, Yoann Bourgeois uses a base and trampoline, a staircase, two dancers and the imbalance found just between the moment of falling and of being suspended. Props are a pretext for momentum, a point of suspension, a musical counterpoint.
Une pièce mécanique - Geisha Fontaine et Pierre Cottreau
Geisha Fontaine and Pierre Cottreau are fans of subverting all kinds of rules usually associated with performance. Une pièce mécanique unites two dancers and a mechanical corps de ballet made of 25 objects/mobile sculptures on the stage. Dancers and objects are both subject and theme of the dance. This material dance, created using computer programming, mathematics and geometry, causes the human interpreters to be transformed by their contact with the mechanical objects; the composition of humans and objects becomes a new poetic device. Whether virtual or living, the emotion remains.
In more depth
BOISSEAU, Rosita. Panorama de la danse contemporaine, Paris : Textuel, 2008. p. 219-225 et 531-535. (Musiques et danse Beaux livres).
FULLER, Loïe. Ma vie et la danse : autobiographie, Paris : l'Oeil d'or, 2000. 180 p. (Mémoires & Miroirs).
ROUSIER, Claire. Oskar Schlemmer, L'homme et la figure d'art, Paris : Centre National de la Danse, 2001. 173 p. (Recherches).
SINA, Adrien. Feminine Futures : Valentine de Saint-Point - Performance, danse, guerre, politique et érotisme, Dijon : Les Presses du Réel, 2011. 512 p.
SUQUET, Annie. L'Éveil des modernités : une histoire culturelle de la danse, Paris : Centre National de la Danse, 2012. 960 p. (CND Hors collection).
PAMS, Françoise (dir.). Danser sa vie, Catalogue d’exposition (Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, novembre 2011 – avril 2012), Paris : Centre Georges Pompidou, 2012. p. 99-103 et 110-113.
GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, Matthieu. Joséphine Baker (1906-1975) [podcast], in Une vie, une œuvre [en ligne], France Culture, 2012, 58 min. Disponible sur : https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/une-vie-une-oeuvre/josephine-baker-1906-1975
Author’s biography :
After years in dance-studies, at the Conservatoire d'Avignon, then at the National Center of Contemporary Dance of Angers, Julie Charrier is moving towards the production of documentary films and live performances captations mainly centered around contemporary dance for many production companies. As a consultant, then editorialist, she participated in the birth and development of Numeridanse.tv. She coordinates for the ACCN and the Ministry of Culture, delegation to dance, the digitization of the French choreographic heritage and created the site www.30ansdanse.fr.
She is responsible for the artistic direction and production of the 360 "Histoires d'espaces" collection, which questions the new possibilities that virtual reality offers to live performances.
Texts and bibliography selection
Maison de la Danse
The "Dance and props" Parcours was launched thanks the support of General Secretariat of Ministries and Coordination of Cultural Policies for Innovation.