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“As we know, one of the biggest constraints on the body in ballet is silence: dancers must float, defy gravity, all without making a sound.”

- Bojana Kunst


“According to convention, a dancing body should be noiseless and voiceless: never letting on that it is subject to the laws of gravity and biology. That’s why there are techniques to cushion impacts and control the breath so it can barely be seen and above all never heard, and why any noise arising from physical effort is suppressed.”

-  Michèle Febvre 



In Kaspar Konzert, for example, François Verret places microphones underneath the stage, turning the dancer into a marvellous percussion instrument. In this way, the audience can hear the sounds made by the movements and the dancer becomes both musical instrument and sound effect artist. 

Kaspar Konzert

A bras le corps

Ministère de la Culture 2000 - Director : Picq, Charles

Choreographer(s) : Charmatz, Boris (France) Chamblas, Dimitri (France)


In A bras le corps (1994), Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas highlight the dancer’s physical presence: “our lumberjack-like bodies shake off years of training to experiment with a kind of dance that starts with the notion of mass.” Charmatz explains. Grouped around a small stage, close to the dancers, the audience can hear “grunts, groans and heavy, pronounced breathing, against a deep background of noise.”

“We created [A bras le corps] to bring back the brute force of dance. Dance effects your facial expression, noise is part of dance. Usually we try to hide it, all we had to do was let go control, so that the dance could breathe in a different way.” 

- Boris Charmatz


Emerging from a long period of silence, chorographers and dancers are gradually and painstakingly learning to use their voices again. Voiceless until Pina Bausch finally dared to break the silent taboo, dancers are now allowing themselves to move less, and vocalise more. 

- Laura Soudy


May B

Ministère de la Culture 1983 - Director : Benhaïoun, Paul-Robin

Choreographer(s) : Marin, Maguy (France)


“A significant part of the contemporary dance world has moved towards more theatrical works, the language of dancer’s body is now oriented to the audience, but all structures are constraining, and rejecting structure means diving once again into ritual. What remains is this hesitating progression, the first tentative steps towards a new mode of communication.”

- Irène Filiberti, speaking of Maguy Marin


Jean-Claude Gallotta wanted to “rid dance of choreography”. He believed that dancers should move every part of their bodies, and since the larynx is body part like any other, it made sense for his dancers to make sounds. When he began to work with Claude-Henri Buffard, the words began to take on meaning, becoming more than just sounds.”

- Laura Soudy

Mammame - extrait

Ministère de la Culture 1986 - Director : Ruiz, Raoul

Choreographer(s) : Gallotta, Jean-Claude (France)


The voice seems to trigger unexpected changes in the dancing body: exaggerated facial mobility, rotations of the head and torso, stretching and bending of the neck, swaying in the entire body, and a new interplay of contraction and relaxation. In fact, it is hard to say which changes the other, the body or the voice.”

- Michèle Febvre


Just as for the other sounds produced by the body, we rediscover the musical potential of the human voice, singing or not. For Ramdam, Maguy Marin and Denis Mariotte have composed a veritable score using the voices of the dancers, with each one pronouncing a letter or reading aloud to create music. 

Maguy Marin, le pari de la rencontre

Ministère de la Culture 1999 - Director : Riolon, Luc

Choreographer(s) : Marin, Maguy (France)


“Sometimes when dancing my feelings were so intense that I could hardly hold back cries of pain or pleasure. One day, I took things further and stopped holding back.” 

- Valeska Gert



In 1997, Angelin Preljocaj created Paysage après la bataille, in which, he said “the sound of voices is part of the choreography.” Here the scream is used in a powerful and rhythmic fashion, engaging the emotions of both dancers and spectators. There is no distinction between the visual and the auditive, all the elements come together to create the performance as a whole.

L'Effet Casimir

Ministère de la Culture 1999 - Director : Müller, Valérie

Choreographer(s) : Preljocaj, Angelin (France)

Cris de corps

Ministère de la Culture 2003 - Director : Serrano, Céline

Choreographer(s) : Montet, Bernardo (France)


“Moreover, the use of this kind of vocalisation creates a naturalistic effect, as though the dancing body is overcome by its own impulses, or, if there is no clear, meaningful motivation, it still indicates the desire to present a kind of “naturalness”, by refusing to disguise the results of effort. A scream rings out and we are thrown amidst the drama. All sounds that are akin to spontaneous, biological or emotional displays, heighten expressivity and dramatise the dancing body regardless of any dramatic action underway.”
- Michèle Febvre


“One day, sound was no longer enough and I started to use words. I developed them in the same way that I had developed the movement. To release tension, I muttered words to myself. I kept the ones that seemed to soothe me and combined them together.” 

- Valeska Gert



In the tradition of Pina Bausch, Cortex breaks the taboo of speech, enabling Maguy Marin to overcome her “fear of using words”. Its modest ambition is to return to the basic structures of language through the use of simple, impersonal sentences. 


On a deeper level, Cortex is a way for the choreographer and her dancers to “finally give  [themselves] permission to name things” and fulfil their “need to describe the world around [them]” by adopting the radical position of outsiders: outsiders as dancers who are new to using speech in a theatrical setting, but also outsiders in a reality that they no longer recognise.”
- Cécile Schenk

Cortex - extrait

Ministère de la Culture 1992 - Director : Riolon, Luc

Choreographer(s) : Marin, Maguy (France)

Lourdes - Las Vegas

Ministère de la Culture 1999 - Director : Cioni, Giovanni

Choreographer(s) : Platel, Alain (Belgium)


Alain Platel and the Ballets C de la B are among those artists who have done the most to blur the lines between dance, theatre and life, with works such as Bernadetje and films in which it is no longer clear what is real and what is fake, where the actor stops and the character begins. 

The use of live speech and dialogue breaches the distance between performer and spectator. Platel creates a poetic and intimate atmosphere, where we can get up close to each character and see their humanity. 


Some choreographers chose to include literary or theoretical works that inspire them in their work. For example, in La Danseuse Malade, Boris Charmatz has Jeanne Balibar recite extracts from foundational texts of Butoh. As early as 1989, Dominique Bagouet created Meublé sommairement. In this piece, Bagouet pays homage to Emmanuel Bove, a frontrunner of the Nouveau Roman movement whom he particularly admired. Here, dance is melded with the full text of one of Bove’s short stories, read aloud by Nelly Borgeaud. 

Bonhomme de vent (à propos de La Danseuse Malade)

Ministère de la Culture 2012 - Director : Khatami, Sima

Choreographer(s) : Charmatz, Boris (France)

Meublé sommairement

Ministère de la Culture 1989 - Director : Picq, Charles

Choreographer(s) : Bagouet, Dominique (France)


“In the end, why should dance and theatre by separate? At their basis, both begin with a human being, wanting to communicate with movement and sound according to the constraints of their situation.” 

- Valeska Gert

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