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CN D - Centre national de la danse 1999 - Director : Lee, Aldo

Choreographer(s) : Diverrès, Catherine (France)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse

Video producer : Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr


CN D - Centre national de la danse 1999 - Director : Lee, Aldo

Choreographer(s) : Diverrès, Catherine (France)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse

Video producer : Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr


Corpus, a work for eight dancers and an actor, was created in 1999. Two years before, Catherine Diverrès completed a decisive reading, of Corpus by Jean-Luc Nancy [1], a text that she initially used to try out various approaches with actors. Finally, she decided to include this text in a choreographic project, “as much (for) the rhythm of this language as (for) the meaning”. [2] In particular, in view of Nancy’s writing, she wished to explore bodies based on their places, their reliefs and their weights, far beyond their unique meanings.

With this in mind, Catherine Diverrès asked the dancers beforehand to undertake individual anthropological research, so that she could establish the choreographic process based on elements from outside the studio and, as such, extrapolate the intimate as the universality of the body through labour. The idea was to then present the investigation results collectively during the first working sessions. “(The dancers) investigated the world of work, carried out interviews, filmed: a lighthouse keeper, a hairdresser, a prostitute, a midwife. They studied the origin of tango, anthropophagy in Brazil, African rites of passage, shamanism, the use of drugs”. [3] Beginning with this vivid, diffuse, chequered material – anthropological corpus, de facto, emerging as empirical – she embarked on a vast project which would produce an absolute kaleidoscopic object.

“(...) Understanding, understanding a little better, by travelling through layers of our history towards the present, what moves today, what shifts, what transpierces. Understanding what, on the contrary, is bloodless, what impedes, what interrupts the movement, the living.

Experiencing the silence (of humility) of bodies which pass on the words, the signs, the gestures transmitted from those before, from those nearby, and from this itself, engraved in oneself, distant, present. (…)” [4]

Corpus, the work, is characterized first of all by dealing with social and intimate situations borne by bodies: a man shaves then dries himself, a woman in a formal white dress is joggled back and forth between two men to the noise of trains, another fixes her chignon before dusting herself, ... Various instants occur, serious or futile, in sequence or simultaneously, with their processions of arrivals and departures and time-tested sensitivities, occasionally exacerbated.

“Corpus: we'd need to be able merely to collect and recite bodies, one by one, not their names (this wouldn't be a memorial exactly), but their places”. [5]

From time to time, the body vociferates, through blinding declarations like: “emigration!”, “race bleaching!” “drive out evil!”, where we can perceive the urgency of questioning as regards outside the body and its processes of exclusion. At this exact location, the shadow of a communitarian body passes by. Here, the body is summoned, in a certain sense, to identify with the implicit and the timelessness of its own diaspora. Inevitably, from there fearful atmospheres are engendered, which do not always become calm. Tension in the bodies, gestures exacerbated, bodies and gestures scattered: in Corpus, there are numerous eloquent extreme appeals that produce through graduation a sense of depletion of human resources. In light of this, the strength of the group aspect, in the work, is vital: we think about moments of unison, and also about forming and destroying a circle, which conjure up both the universality and the intimacy of bodies between themselves. As such, through the collective collapse of the bodies and through the tremors of their victorious poses, we are powerfully re-established, in succession, in the singular and in the gregarious.

Moreover, the actor Erik Gerken is also present, masterfully delivering snatches of Jean-Luc Nancy’s text, together with L'infini turbulent by Henri Michaux [6]. Cécile Loyer, dressed in white, leaning against the wall, moves around supporting the text, inducing through this a plethora of body/wall body/text body/light relationships – being in its night, being the body’s night, being its morning, and then, meticulously embodying matter, air, earth, liquids, abrasive particles... And suddenly the air takes command of the bodies and their spaces. Runs, jumps like eruptions; a joyful disquiet, body language exhilarated by the momentum, the swaying, the rebound and, in the atomic dispersion, an irrepressible climax of the bodies takes place. Then, inspired by the precipitation of one body towards another, a marvellous acceleration occurs: we suddenly feel naturally part of this corpus of softness, of fat and of tenderness of dance, whilst the obvious delight that the bodies have of dancing radiates far beyond the stage.

And it there, without any doubt, that the great strength of Corpus lies, in its almost exhaustive ability to bring together as well as to shatter everything concealed within the body, from its great organization to its imaginable mess.

“I believe that the question now, is very much the question of the body, of the space between bodies, of their weight in such a virtualized world”. [7]

Corpus is one of the most concrete works I have ever created. There is a lot of relief, we cross very different bodies, yet very real, very concrete”. [8]


[1] Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus, published by Métailié, 1992
[2] Irène Filiberti, “Affinités electives” in Catherine Diverrès, Mémoires passantes, p. 70, published by Centre national de la danse, 2010
[3] Ibid, p. 72
[4] Catherine Diverrès about Corpus, statement of intent, 1999
[5] Jean-Luc Nancy, extract from his work Corpus, published by Métailié, 1992 in French and translated into English by Richard A. Rand, 2008, Fordham University Press. The Corpus by C. Diverrès is partially based on this text, from which it even takes its name.
[6] Henri Michaux, L'infini turbulent, published by Gallimard, 1957
[7] Catherine Diverrès about Corpus, interview with Eric Prévert, La griffe, January 1999
[8] Ibid.


“(...) [T]his long work of strangeness, of moving, that the choreographer proposes here again to the dancers (and for us to view), precipitates the dance when it explodes into a diffraction of space and time which the spectator’s sight, hearing, feelings and thought can no longer name”.

Philippe Brzezanski, Journal du Théâtre de la Ville, January-February 1999, n° 125, p. 17

“This variation of excess bodies produces sumptuous dances. Bodies and voices engrave delusions and daily life, text and choreography into shrewd variations from the black of the darkest fear described in L'infini turbulent by the poet Henri Michaux to the just as poetic analysis of the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy developed in one of his books, Corpus, which lends its name to Catherine Diverrès work. »

Irène Filiberti, Théâtre de la Ville programme, 9-13 February 1999

“You must let yourself be carried away, you must definitely not resist. Corpus talks about the body’s extreme states, of the emptiness that follows tensions that are too strong”.

Dominique Frétard, “Ni morts ni vifs, les corps en cavale de Catherine Diverrès”,  Le Monde, January 1999

“There is no shortage of material in Corpus, a creation that is aptly named as it is conceived as a collection of thoughts, of contemplations, of gestures… (…) Corpus acts like a poison, a heady fragrance, yet also, in particular through the great tirade on the merchandize body and on capitalism, as a political speech”.

Marie-Christine Vernay, “Corpus entêtant”, Libération, 12 February 1999

Updating: March 2014

Diverrès, Catherine

Catherine Diverrès has said, “Conscience, our relationship with others, this is what creates time”, ever since her first choreographic creation. She is a sort of strange meteor, appearing in the landscape of contemporary dance in the mid-80’s. She stood out almost immediately in her rejection of the tenets of post-modern American dance and the classically-based vocabularies trending at that time. She trained at the Mudra School in Brussels under the direction of Maurice Béjart, and studied the techniques of José Limón, Merce Cunningham and Alwin Nikolais before joining the company of Dominique Bagouet in Montpellier, then deciding to set out on her own choreographic journey.

Her first work was an iconic duo, Instance, with Bernardo Montet, based upon a study trip she took to Japan in 1983, during which she worked with one of the great masters of butoh, Kazuo Ohno. This marked the beginning of the Studio DM. Ten years later she was appointed director of the National Choreographic Center in Rennes, which she directed until 2008.

Over the years, Catherine Diverrès has created over thirty pieces, created her own dance language, an extreme and powerful dance, resonating with the great changes in life, entering into dialogues with the poets: Rilke, Pasolini and Holderlin, reflecting alongside the philosophers Wladimir Jankelevich and Jean-Luc Nancy, focusing also on the transmission of movement and repertoire in Echos, Stances and Solides and destabilising her own dancing with the help of the plastician Anish Kapoor in L’ombre du ciel.

Beginning in 2000, she began adapting her own style of dance by conceiving other structures for her creations: she improvised with the music in Blowin, developed projects based on experiences abroad, in Sicily for Cantieri, and with Spanish artists in La maison du sourd. Exploring the quality of stage presence, gravity, hallucinated images, suspensions, falls and flight — the choreographer began using her own dance as a means of revealing, revelation, unmasking, for example in Encor, in which movements and historical periods are presented. Diverrès works with the body to explore the important social and aesthetic changes of today, or to examine memory, the way she did in her recent solo in homage to Kazuo Ohno, O Sensei.

And now the cycle is repeating, opening on a new period of creation with the founding of Diverrès’ new company, Association d’Octobre, and the implantation of the company in the city of Vannes in Brittany. Continuing on her chosen path of creation and transmission, the choreographer and her dancers have taken on a legendary figure, Penthesilea, the queen of the Amazons, in Penthésilée(s). In returning to group and collective work, this new work is indeed another step forward in the choreographer’s continuing artistic journey.

Source: Irène Filiberti, website of the company Catherine Diverrès

More information:

Lee, Aldo

Aldo Lee has studied at the University of Witwatersand (South Africa) where he is received as Bachelor of Art, with the highest distinction, in 1989. In 1995, he takes part in the International Video Workshop for Dance (Glasgow). He moves to fiction with Sacrifice (drama, 30 mn) for which he is awarded the best short-movie prize at the South African Cinema festival. He directs several documentary films and is awarded the prizes for best documentary for La double vie de Dona Ermelinda (The Double Life of Dona Ermelinda, 52 mn) at the festival Vues d'Afrique, Montréal in 1995 ; and in 1999, for Fermiers Blancs, Terre Noire (White Farmers, Black Land, 52 mn) at the festival of the Dhow Countries, Tanzania.

He collaborates notably with artists Rainer Ganahl, Boris Achour, Yann Kopp, and particularly choreographers Hervé Robbe, Jérôme Bel, Rachid Ouramdane... For the association edna, he co-directs Horace-Benedict in 2001 with Dimitri Chamblas and collaborates with Boris Charmatz for his film Une lente introduction (A Slow Introduction, 2007). In parallel, he works regularly as cameraman and director for various projects broadcasted on Arte, France3 (Striptease) or Channel Four.


Choreography : Catherine Diverrès

Interpretation : Comédien Érik Gerken - Danseurs Alessandro Bernardeschi, Fabrice Dasse, Catherine Diverrès, Carole Gomes, Osman Kassen Khelili, Nam-Jin Kim, Isabelle Kürzi, Fabrice Lambert, Cécile Loyer

Set design : Laurent Peduzzi

Text : Extraits de "L'infini turbulent" d'Henri Michaux, Mercure de France, 1964 ; extraits de "Corpus" de Jean-Luc Nancy, Éditions Métailié, 1992.

Original music : Denis Gambiez

Lights : Marie-Christine Soma assistée de Pierre Gaillardot

Costumes : Cidalia da Costa

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