“Sacré Printemps is modelled on Tunisia today, the Tunisia that is seeking its constitution but also the one that has managed to reassemble and reunite, despite the different tonalities and nuances.”
Interview with Aïcha M'Barek and Hafiz Dhaou – Words recorded by Gallia Valette-Pilenko, October 2014
How did this piece come about?
Hafiz Dhaou: We were actually already working on it when we created 'Toi et Moi', our duet, in 2013.
Aïcha M'Barek: The duet was like a eureka moment, or rather the motivation to go elsewhere and translate what we had both been testing on mass, because we both really enjoy working on bodily mass and the mass (or number) of dancers. We seek out their individuality while searching for a common language.
H.D: 'Kharbga' (2011) marked a turning point in our work. It showed us the need to revisit the entire vocabulary that we had previously constructed. We focused on something that belongs to us; the taste for a certain path. It's not so much the form of an action that is important, but the path taken to arrive at it.
A.M'B: There is a notion that we have to offer something; a challenge that would require commitment. And besides, we have known the whole team for 14 years, even though not everyone has danced all the pieces. We go straight to what is essential; lying isn't possible, nor is ‘doing’. It's ‘being’ that interests us.
H.D: We share things in a very concrete way: joy, breathing, tiredness, etc. All that allows us to converge on the same objective, to be as one.
The title you've chosen, 'Sacré Printemps!', has two meanings. There's obviously the reference to the Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), and the other – just as obvious – to the Arab Spring. Why?
A.M'B: For us, the Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring) was a turning point in the history of dance, not so much in the work itself but in the shock wave it created, which caused a kind of resonance. We don't identify with music itself – more with the way it is written. Each time the body is involved, like with Stravinsky's score which deconstructs its musical phrases.
H.D: "Sacré" (“Blessed” or “Sacred”) also evokes mythology, religion and the untouchable; something permanent that outlasts generations. Spring is also a synonym for hope, even though there is also that exclamation mark which tempers and questions it. We are in the middle of two contradictory movements: hope for a better day and dogma. Faith in the future, as well as fear. How do you reconcile the sacred and the contemporary? Tunisia is a sort of "open-air laboratory", the "startup of democracy". What happens there is scrutinised by the entire Arab world. Civil society in Tunisia obliged politics to determine its position.
A.M'B: This urgency is part of the body, because it conditions it, plunges it into a permanent state of urgency. This leads to acts of rebellion. We put everything into place in order to place the body into a state of urgency and, when it reaches this, we can no longer let our guard down. But we're witnesses, not representatives. This is where the importance of set design comes into play.
Yes, let's talk about this set design, which is made up of 32 life-size characters drawn by Dominique Simon.
A.M'B: It actually came from an encounter on the streets of Tunis with the painted cartoons of Bilal Berrini – or Zoo Project – a young French-Algerian graffiti artist; they really spoke to us. His figures, fallen martyrs from the Tunisian Revolution, move around the city of Tunis like silent witnesses. At the time, in 2011, we had met him and talked about doing something together. When we wanted to get back in touch with him, he had disappeared. We later found out that he was found murdered in Detroit.
H.D: Out of respect for him, we didn't want to just help ourselves to his work, even though it had partly motivated our new research. We asked the illustrator Dominique Simon, to pay homage to his work by creating characters of whom some were anonymous and others recognisable, which would become an integral part of the piece. Characters or people important to us, but also some of the martyrs painted by Bilal, and other anonymous figures. He translated our intentions through those whom we had wanted to see feature alongside us, with a different reading and characteristics. We are open to his point of view.
A.M'B: Yes, we explored the postures of the body, because these silent witnesses condition the space and the movements of the dancers, imposing a time for reflection and openness. Their presence develops the imagination and opens new spaces.
H.D: The audience is no longer just a spectator and a consumer, but also a witness to what is happening. A dialogue is opened up between them, the figures and the performers.