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Les petits riens

Massé, Marie-Geneviève (France)


The Wayward Daughter

Cramér, Ivo (France)


Les enfants du paradis

Les enfants du paradis (France)


Le cygne

Chauviré, Yvette (France)


Les cahiers retrouvés de Nina Vyroubova

Les cahiers retrouvés de Nina Vyroubova (France)


Tanzerische pantominen

Gert, Valeska (Germany)


The Green Table

Jooss, Kurt (United Kingdom)


It's going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend

Gruwez, Lisbeth (Belgium)

Maison de la Danse de Lyon 2012

Choreographer(s) : Gruwez, Lisbeth (Belgium)

Video producer : Voetvolk vzw

Integral video available at Maison de la danse de Lyon

Take a look at this work in the video library


Maison de la Danse de Lyon 2018 - Director : Plasson, Fabien

Choreographer(s) : Massé, Marie-Geneviève (France) Cramér, Ivo (Sweden) Barrault, Jean-Louis Fokine, Michel (Russian Federation) Lifar, Serge (Ukraine) Gert, Valeska (Germany) Jooss, Kurt (Germany) Ohno, Kazuo (Japan) Gruwez, Lisbeth (Belgium)

Author : Sarah Nouveau

en fr


Pantomime first appeared in France in the 17th century in a spectacular choreographic genre known as the Ballet de Cour.But it was in 1760, in his Lettres sur la danse that Noverre initiated a sort of union between dance and pantomime when he theorized “pantomime-ballet” an autonomous choreographic genre. The dancers’ movements would express the feelings of the character whose role they were performing and would help the comprehension of the narration.

During the 19th century, Marius Petipa’s academic ballet pursued pantomime-ballet but privileged virtuosity at the expense of the expressiveness that was so dear to Noverre. At the same time, pantomime, as an autonomous art form, evolved and was reflected in modern dance as well as in the nascent cinema, prior to talking motion pictures – in particular through its two ingenious representatives, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Pantomime established itself by creating its own niche – primordial corporeality: the roots of modern dance can also be found here. Modern pantomime, modern dance: consequently, the body breaks away from verbal language and becomes the silent setting of drama and of dance.


Les petits riens (The Little Nothings) - Noverre

Marie-Geneviève Massé recreated the ballet Les petits riens, originally composed by Noverre in 1778. The music was created by a young composer, who was not very well known back then : Mozart. Les Petits riens reflect a moment in the history of ballet, where it was seeking to become an autonomous art: the story is told exclusively through gestures, using expressive pantomime. This extract is part of the third scene: Espièglerie or Le Travesti It tells the charade initiated by l’Amour fou which switches the outfits of a man and a woman lying on the ground after being stunned during Blind Man’s Buff.

La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) - Ivo Cramer

La fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) was the first French ballet to integrate Noverre’s ideas, in particular the choice of a realistic subject. Choreographed by Jean Dauberval in 1789, this ballet combines danced passages with flashes of pantomime or action, in a series of sequences that are often witty and very rhythmical. The music (a pastiche of popular French tunes) punctuates the gestures and heightens the dramatic intensity. When this ballet was recreated two hundred years on, by the choreologist Ivo Cramer, Laurence Louppe said that it was the turning-point to “a form of autonomous danced performance where the naturalistic imitation of life’s little gestures triumphs (...) and the realism of everyday topics...”.

Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) - Marcel Carné

Marcel Carné’s 1945 film, Les enfants du paradis, explores the performance scene of the 19th century.The central character of this immense tableau is Baptiste, played by Jean-Louis Barrault, who pays tribute to the famous mime artist Jean-Gaspard Deburau. Baptiste, abused by his father who presented him to passers-by as a lackadaisical good-for-nothing, turns out to be less empty-headed than at first glance, when he rescues the beautiful Garance – whom he has just set eyes on and fallen madly in love with – from the clutches of the police. She has been wrongly accused of having stolen a pocket watch from a potbellied bourgeois. Through his silent testimony, Baptiste offers the audience a precious moment of first-rate pantomime.

La mort du cygne (The Dying Swan) - Michel Fokine

In 1907, Michel Fokine created La Mort du cygne for Anna Pavlova, to the music from Camille Saint-Saëns' Carnaval des animaux. On trouve dans ce court ballet les thèmes romantiques de la mort et de l’idéal, la figure du cygne blanc symbolisant la pureté. L’abandon du buste et de la tête à la gravité terrestre, le brisement des lignes des bras et des mains, et la fin de cette danse au sol, sont autant d’éléments de langage expressif pour incarner le passage vers la mort. Dominique Delouche filme ici Yvette Chauviré en train de revivre son interprétation du ballet, lors de la passation du rôle à Dominique Khalfouni.

Phèdre - Serge Lifar

Nina Vyroubova, accompanied by Cyril Atanassoff an extract of the ballet Phèdre that she performed in when it was created by Serge Lifar in 1950: Phèdre. Heir of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Lifar worked hand-in-hand with avant-garde artists on this ballet : Jean Cocteau, using Racine’s tragedy for the argument and, George Auric, for the music.. In this extract, the heroine has to reckon with her husband Thésée’s son, Hippolyte, whom she has secretly fallen in love with. The pantomime is portrayed through a myriad of gestures that have a precise meaning and theatrical purposes – authority here for Phèdre, respect and obedience for Hippolyte, as well as muted love. The reliance of the gestures on verbal language can be seen during this transmission: each gesture and each bodily intention are accompanied by a sub-text, like stage directions in a theatre play.

Tänzerische pantomimen - Valeska Gert

Valeska Gert, the German modern dancer, embodied various figures in solos presented in cabarets, drawing her inspiration from social reality, she had a predilection for anything that held the bourgeoisie in contempt and a certain taste for provocation. This video illustrates the performances of three of her most famous solos. In Death, her whole body is consumed by alternating movements of tension and relaxation. Her head thrown backwards, her mouth opens wide to portray a silent scream, representing the struggle of life up until the dying breath In The procuress, Valeska Gert displays her talents for pulling faces and the ever-so-rapid transformations of her whole body. As for the solo Canaille (Riff-raff), it brings to life a prostitute who sways her hips to attract customers and makes bourgeois society look at its own peculiarities.

La Table verte (The Green Table) - Kurt Joos

In keeping with expressionist lines, Kurt Jooss, the creator of the danced theatre, developed a gestural dramaturgy by drawing his inspiration from postures of everyday life. In 1932, The Green Table denounced the absurdity of war and the hypocritical role of politicians. He portrayed the latter wearing old men’s masks, dressed in black tuxedos and wearing white gloves: they would never dirty their hands in the conflict that they were about to ignite. At the end of a heated discussion, they fired a shot in the air, thus embracing war.

La Argentina - Kazuo Ono

Kazuo Ono, is the cofounder, along with Tatsumi Hijikata, of butoh, a modern dance created in Japan at the end of the 1950s. Kazuo Ohno became known in France in 1980, with hisHommage à la Argentina where, in spite of himself, he undertook the Japanese tradition of “onnagata”, where a man performs a feminine role to express the heart in a stylized way. Ohno’s essence is the memory of an intense emotion when, as a young man, he watched Antonia Mercé y Luque, known as “la Argentina”, dancing on stage. Fifty years on, this emotional memory came to the fore when he saw a painting depicting the dancer and he heeded a call from his body to dance this emotion.

It’s going to get worse and worse my friend - Lisbeth Gruwez

In her work, It’s going to get worse and worse, my friend, she focuses on the ecstatic effect that speech can have on a body. The way in which the body of a speaker changes as their speech develops. She watched several other examples of speeches and, by observing the speakers’ gestures and postures, she “harvested”, with the idea of really incorporating what she had seen as the basis of an abstract choreography. By removing the content of these speeches and by focusing on the body language, the dancer reveals violence at work in all its splendour, the compulsive desire of persuasion, which turns the body of the speaker, who seems friendly and calm, into a form of clamorous, vociferous trance.

In more depth


GERT Valeska, Je suis une sorcière, Kaléidoscope d’une vie dansée, trad. Philippe Ivernel, éditions Complexe, Centre National de la Danse, 2004.
- MARTINEZ Ariane, La pantomime, théâtre en mineur (1880-1945), Presses Sorbonne nouvelle, 2008. 

NOVERRE Jean-George, Lettres sur la danse, Paris : éd. du Sandre, DL 2006.
219 p.

PORTE Alain, François Delsarte, une anthologie, Coeuvres-et-Valsery : Ressouvenances, impr. 2012.  287 p. (Pas à pas).

RYKNER, Arnaud (dir.). Pantomime et théâtre du corps : transparence et opacité du hors-texte, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009. 245 p. (Le spectaculaire. Série Théâtre).

Articles et reviews

BOUCHON, Marie-Françoise. « Pantomime » in Dictionnaire de la danse, Larousse, 1999.

CLARKE, Jan. (2009). « Du ballet de cour à la foire: les origines de la pantomime au XVIIe siècle ». In RYKNER, Arnaud, Pantomime et théâtre du corps: transparence et opacité du hors-texte, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, p. 21-31.

DOUSTEYSSIER Catherine, « Pantomime et cinéma : jeux corporels et génériques dans Drôle de drame de Marcel Carné », in RYKNER, Arnaud, Pantomime et théâtre du corps: transparence et opacité du hors-texte, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009, p. 197-204.

GAUTIER Théophile. « Shakespeare aux Funambules », in Revue de Paris, 4 septembre 1842. 

GREINER, Christine. « Ôno Kazuo, le corps où les mots ne s’inscrivent pas », in ROUSIER, Claire, La danse en solo, une figure de la modernité, Pantin, Centre National de la Danse, 2002. (Recherches - CND).

LEFEVRE, Maurice. « La pantomime », in STOULLIG, Edmont (dir.), Revue d’art dramatique, Paris , A. Dupret, mai 1892, p. 257.

LOUPPE, Laurence. « La fille mal gardée », in Libération, 25 février 1989. 

RIZZONI, Nathalie, « Le Nouveau Spectacle Pantomime à Paris, une réplique transparente à la censure (1746-1749) », in RYKNER, Arnaud (dir.). Pantomime et théâtre du corps, Transparence et opacité du hors-texte, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009, p. 33-46.

RYKNER, Arnaud. « Le « corps imprononçable » de la pantomime fin-de-siècle : de la défection du verbe à l’absolu de l’image », in RYKNER, Arnaud, Pantomime et théâtre du corps : transparence et opacité du hors-texte, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009, p. 77-91.


Sarah Nouveau has a contemporary dance career with various choreographers (Haïm Adri, Jean Rochereau, Nadège Macleay, Régis Bouchet-Merelli, Michele Ettori, Elisabeth Schwartz, Monique Duquesne) and directors (Brigitte Mounier). After a long training in corporal theater (The path of the Theater), she was a clown for the Elixir Company, and actress for the Company Detours. She holds a state diploma for teaching contemporary dance and has experience teaching dance to a variety of audiences. She also studied at the Sorbonne in Sorbonne and in choreographic culture with Laurence Louppe at CEFEDEM Aubagne. She teaches the history of dance, regularly hosts conferences, and has published L'Harmattan editions "The Wigmanian Body after 'Adieu et Merci'", "Danser l'ailleurs", and "La culture choregraphique au coeur of dance teaching ". Since 2010, she has created shows within her company, the quadrille of lobsters, and develops dance conferences: the show "C.O.R.P.u. ", About the beginnings of modernity in dance, created with the actors of the company of the Bird-Fly, people with mental handicap, turned in Poland and Russia. Having practiced yoga since 2003, she also trained with Bénédicte Pavelak ("Transmitting an art of the body and the voice"), and her research led her to position her teaching differently, the dance becoming privileged medium of a discovery of itself.


Excerpts selection

Sarah Nouveau

Texts and bibliography selection

Sarah Nouveau


Maison de la Danse

Le Parcours "Pantomimes" a pu voir le jour grâce au soutien du Secrétariat général du Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication - Service de la Coordination des politiques Culturelles et de l'Innovation (SCPCI)

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