Rock and dance never got together as the period did not readily lend itself to such a union. Contemporary dance on the other hand, also known as the “Nouvelle Danse Française” (New French Dance), is undeniably rock’n roll, borrowing this musical genre’s attitude and values, and occasionally its look, in a way similar to how it was influenced by the idea(l)s of May 68, although not directly a player. Without ever copying rockers’ gestures, it is infused with the energy, insolence, disenchanted devil-may-care attitude, pleasure of writing as well as a certain boastful lack of discipline towards (the) discipline itself.
“Halfway between isolation and community, what traces of these (possibly) contradictory bodies are left today as we still try, whatever happens, to dance among the ruins of a night that is forever lost?”Quote from Christian Rizzo.
Because they adore them, because they’ve patronized concert venues, because they’ve danced to their tunes, both during live shows as well as in London nightclubs, amongst other places, choreographers have centre staged their “idols”, perpetuating their movement through their own dance, teasing them subtly, paying quirky tributes to these singers, these born performers, who have nourished their imagination.
Jean-Claude Gallotta puts Serge Gainsbourg’s song “L’homme à tête de choux” to movement with Alain Bashung who unfortunately passed away before the show was staged. Christian Rizzo revives his Ian Curtis-fuelled post-punk clubbing years. In his show, a shadow permeates the stage like a threat; this underlying threat forever akin to the world of rock. Lisbeth Gruwez is a formidable Patti Smith, even if the show alludes to the band Can, along with her partner, the composer and musician Maarten Van Cauwenberghe.
Birth of Prey - Lisbeth Gruwez
Le syndrome Ian - Christian Rizzo
“Vital complicity is forged in this encounter between a rock musician and a contemporary dancer-choreographer: embrace difference to survive.”Jean-Paul Montanari on the subject of Dominique Bagouet and Sven Lava’s show, F.et Stein.
To be irreverent, one needs to show reverence, i.e. know their classics. In his most atypical choreographies, Dominique Bagouet pus faces to music by the Doors to break away from the stressful everyday life as a Director of a Choreographic Centre (which he was in Montpellier from 1980 to 1992). Hand-in-hand with the rock guitarist Sven Lava, he electrifies his body language showcasing Frankenstein-worthy surgical stitching. He also summons up outrageous characters, a nod to cabaret, in particular to the German dancer Valeska Gert and to the popular Marseille-style “vest-top” culture.
Andy Degroat, in his stylish waiter’s outfit, falls flat on his face and has fun with the videomaker Charles Picq. Highly-distinct, enthusiastic reviewer of great classics, perfectly at home with a host of styles and performer as well as choreographer for Bob Wilson, he plays the rehearsal “comical” in La Petite Mort, a video shot with Charles Picq, an artist who accompanied a myriad of artists and was, incidentally, behind the Numéridanse initiative.
Some years later, François Chaignaud misappropriates classical pointes in a brawny, ever-so precise white ballet. His work interweaves other types of music and style, including voguing practiced by African-Americans.
“I'm interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have no meaning.” Jim Morrison
Violence… acted out, obscene, frequently associated with drugs and sex, be it among the pubic or on stage alike, occasionally destroying rockers’ bodies, is intrinsically linked to rock. Without delving into everyone’s personal stories, in any event it is a clear demonstration of resistance to all forms of oppression and authority. Dance embodies it perfectly.
Oona Doherty conjures up the violence of Irish teenagers by borrowing their codes and endowing them with novel syntax. She embraces their postures to enhance the understanding of everyday violence which is not as ordinary as it may appear. Lia Rodriguez who, amongst other things, works in a Rio favela, re-explores the life-saving wantonness of bodies. She weaves ancestral Brazilian and Indian cultures with current-day disorders in an incredibly animal dance. By taking a somewhat distant perspective, Fabrice Ramalingom reinvents pogo, the punk-rock dance of the 70s and 80s, where the aim of the game was to shove each other around and literally collide. These dancefloor clashes led him to write a danced handbook for learning to vie together.
My Pogo - Fabrice Ramalingom
Be chic, but shock… choreographers, rarely in line with fashion codes but forever playing around with them, embrace elegance to a tee. Mathilde Monnier and Jean-François Duroure are much more punk than their kilts. Régine Chopinot gets on brilliantly with Jean-Paul Gaultier for a wacky fashion show where dancers are much less in line with woefully-standardized ideals of beauty than with top models. Karole Armitage, known as the “punk ballerina” by American critics, shakes up classical steps, turning them into a breathless rave party. All of them, girls and guys, much more feminist than the story tells it, seek this point of possible rupture from a society which only offers rebellion, cynicism faced with the rise of ultra-liberalism and with directives dictated by the laws of consumption.
“Rock isn’t just about “show biz”, it’s also a culture, a way of thinking, an absolute that’s sometimes driven to the point of suffering and death” Jean-Claude Gallotta, Pierre Notte - Théâtre du Rond Point – 2015
Rockers invented their own movement repertoire, by letting their energy, their instinct guide them and by paying attention to their look. More preoccupied by dancing than by the choreography itself (unless you’re a James Brown, Michael Jackson, Madonna, etc.), they take on the stage the way we take on life. Individualistic, sexy, ravishing, drunk on life, female and male rockers fascinate the public, not just through their excess but through the way they impose their lifestyle, reveal it, without ever counting their days and their nights.