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.