Warm Up Session with Benjamin Bertrand   

Online
First broadcast 312 days ago

Warm Up Session with Benjamin Bertrand   

3h
Following a live 1-to-1 Session between the choreographer and the participants, enjoy a filmed version of this encounter. To begin, discover an invitation to move by Bertrand, followed by a conversation between the choreographer and Madeleine Planeix-Crocker, curator of the Warm Up Sessions.
From September to December 2019, Benjamin Bertrand completed a residency at the Villa Kujoyama in Japan. There, he sought gestures of remains, gestures of openness, horizontality, arms open to the Mediterranean and hands extended toward an invisible and matrix-type body. During this residency, Bertrand developed a polymorphic practice within his studio : he was initiated to Noh theatre with actor Tatsushige Udaka. He also pursued his improvisation practice and became interested in the filiation between Zen Buddhism and the avant-garde of American postmodern dance.
During this Warm Up Session, Bertrand becomes a passer desirous to share with each participant the traces of these improvised dances from Kyoto, informed by the specific quality of recollection. These seven dances compose his next solo, Vestiges*, seven dances of care placed in dialogue with the decimated spectres of tribes that are invoked by Algerian poet Kateb Yacine and whose sensual traces are revived by our skins in flux.

* This project was developed during a residency of Benjamin Bertrand in 2019 at the Villa Kujoyama with the support of the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller and the INSTITUT FRANÇAIS.

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The Warm Up Sessions stem from the desire to collectively discover, embody and question training techniques in performance. The series aims to situate the warm up as a vital step in the creation of performance pieces. Thus, training is understood as a starting point for choreographic, dramaturgical or performative productions, both a process of sharing and reflecting. Based upon inclusive invitations, the Sessions seek to deconstruct silos between movement and thought. The series offers a space to practice and discuss, open to all, and conceived in close partnership with guest artists. In this experimental terrain, audience members become active participants, giving birth to an ephemeral and recurring event.
Workshop
Online
Monday 22 Mar 2021
from 04:50 pm to 08 pm

Lafayette Anticipations
Warm Up Session with Benjamin Bertrand
Lafayette Anticipations
Warm Up Session with Benjamin Bertrand

With

Benjamin Bertrand is a dancer-choreographer. Of Algerian origin, he lives in Paris
After studying philosophy and literature in preparatory classes and at the Sorbonne (Paris-IV), he began a course in contemporary dance at the Conservatoire des Abbesses de Paris. Since then, he has collaborated with, among others, Olivier Dubois in "Tragédie and Auguri", with the visual artist Jean-Luc Verna in "Uccello, uccellacci and the birds", the director Marine Mane in "À mon corps défendant", Philippe Quesne and Egle Budvityte in the context of the Pavillon Neuflize and the Vivarium Studio or more recently with the pop artist Christine and the Queens and the (LA)HORDE collective.

With RADAR, he signs pieces such as "Orages" (2015) in collaboration with the visual artist Patrick Laffont, which is anchored in his experience as a person born under X, "Rafales" (2017), a wave piece for two performers and a composer of electronic music, piece in delegated production with the TAP-Théâtre Auditorium of Poitiers for which he is the winner of the writing grant from the Fondation Beau-marchais-SACD, "Inside your bones" (2019), a performative and sound installation in collaboration with sound artist Jean-François Laporte and the instrumental ensemble Ars Nova (direction Jean-Mickaël Lavoie).

In 2019, Benjamin Bertrand leaves for Kyoto with "Vestiges", one of the winning projects of the Villa Kujoyama and studies Noh theatre and Japanese funeral rites. On his return from Japan, he created a solo, "Vestiges" (2020) and his first group piece, "The End of the Forests" (2021), a piece for four performers and sound artist PYUR.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Madeleine Planeix-Crocker is associate curator at Lafayette Anticipations.

In 2018, she founded the "Warm Up Sessions", a cycle of public and participative meetings around training practices in dance and performance. In the spring of 2021, she proposes the "Dérives" series, which aims to contribute to the writing of new histories of the arts through dialogues co-constructed with contemporary artists. Her interests lie at the crossroads of research and curation of feminist, queer and intersectional performances.

Madeleine is also co-director of the Chair "Troubles, Dissidences and Aesthetics" at the Beaux Arts de Paris and a permanent member of the Scientific Research Council of the ESAD in Reims.

A graduate of Princeton University in cultural studies, Madeleine obtained a Master's degree in Media, Art and Creation from HEC Paris and a Master's degree from EHESS. There she carried out a research-creation project with the association Women Safe, where she now runs a theatre and creative writing workshop. Madeleine is currently doing a thesis at EHESS (CRAL) on contemporary communal performance in France.

She has practiced dance and theatre since childhood.

About

Transcript

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

Hello everyone. I am pleased to be joined by the dancer and choreographer Benjamin Bertrand for this Warm-Up Session. My name is Madeleine Planeix-Crocker and I am the curator of the series of discussions around performances here at Lafayette Anticipations. So, without further ado, Benjamin, hello.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the context of the creation of your new solo performance, which is the source of inspiration for the gestures and movements that you are presenting in this session today, which, if I understood correctly, came about during a residency that you have just completed at the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto?

Benjamin Bertrand

Yes.

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

And which led to your new solo Vestiges.

Benjamin Bertrand

Yes, indeed I was in residence at the Villa Kujoyama for four months from September to December 2019. My project at the Villa was mainly about Noh theatre and the study of funeral rites. I made a proposal for this project in 2018 and then received the very joyful news in June 2018, that I was going to go to Kyoto for four months, I felt absolutely lucky. Throughout my residency, I was in contact with Tatsushige Udaka, who is a Kyoto actor from the Kongo school—one of several Noh schools—located in Kyoto. Tatsushige introduced me to the vast world of Noh, which is a theatre dating back to the fourteenth century, but a theatre that is both sung and danced. One of the founding principles of Noh is to say that there is no dancing without singing and no singing without dancing. That was at the heart of our exchange during those four months, I think it was at the forefront of Tatsushige’s mind in his efforts to pass on the knowledge he has acquired since he was a child, because he has been an actor since he was five years old. That was an extremely important part of my residency. I was also interested in Japanese culture’s approach to mourning. What are their last acts in contact with their loved ones? What are their rituals? What is the influence of Buddhism and Shintoism, the influence of beliefs, religion, and also spirituality? 

This was the environment I had in which to create the solo. But I should point out that I initially was at the Villa not to create a solo but to create a group piece entitled ‘La fin des fôrets’ (The end of forests). While in Kyoto, I had a lot of questions about my situation, which I think many dancers—and surely many human beings—experience, which is the sharing of loneliness. The question of the dancer alone in the studio who gets up in the morning. At the Villa, I was lucky to have a studio, every day in fact, in which to develop my own practice, based on different influences. I was also interested in the influence of post-modern dance. I really wondered, what is it about me as a dancer—I don’t know if I’m still a ‘young’ dancer, as I’ve been doing this for ten years—what ghosts could pass through me, even if I wasn’t aware of it. I was really interested in finding, even in an imaginary way, like a form of inter-textuality, connections between the Cunningham technique and, for example, Buddhist prayers, which are prayers that are prostrations, techniques or states of contemplation. I also wrote to the Cunningham Company and took virtual classes every morning to really get back into this body which is at the root of a whole part of our history, or at least a certain part of the history of contemporary dance in France. I also learned a choreography by Isadora Duncan called ‘Mother’ because I was also very much influenced and interested by Noh stories which often link a mother and her son, the disappearance of a son who comes back in the form of a ghost and who in the form of this ghost, recounts his last moments to his mother. This narrative environment also inspired me.

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

You call them, in what I consider to be a very visceral way, melancholic dances, whether that is referring to practices you discovered in Japan or those that come rather from a European context, and the encounter of these practices of dance in your body. I think that the term melancholic dances in the plural is very accurate. It seems to me that you quote these dances, you situate them in a slightly broader context, which is that of an ecology that is profoundly impacted by human beings and that is being transformed because of this impact. I was wondering how you see the role of the body, and particularly of the dancing body in this case, in this encounter between ecology and the practices of mourning or meditation?

Benjamin Bertrand

It is true that in the etymology of the word melancholy there is a form of return to the earth. Melancholy, in the theory of emotions in the Middle Ages, is really about black bile which in cosmology is connected to the earth. I like to connect the word melancholy to the word humiliation, which often evokes a posture, because I really believe that the work I create is postural. That is why I was interested in all these practices, because of this question of posture and the articulation of the spine, its deployment or its curling up. These spinal states, and these visceral states too, in which we ingest a lot of information. I have the impression that dancers experience… or at least in Japan, I was in a situation, an environment that made me experience the silence, the weather, and the air which is quite particular in Kyoto, and also through this attention to gestures, this attention to softness. I believe that this attention to softness is also related to a limit. Something happens when we put ourselves in a state of gentleness, when this state is reached and we try to express it. I think something begins to vibrate—in any case, that is the membrane that interests me when I dance. There is also this question, which came to me a lot in Japan, of what can be done with this dance, how can I share it and what I am really sharing, today in 2020, with the harshness of this time. From these solitary experiences that I was able to have in Kyoto, what can I bring back here and how can I open this up to a more ecological field? I really like Timothy Morton’s idea that our relationship to the world is also a relationship to spectres, to extra-terrestrials. I really like to think that, in fact, it’s also our responsibility to develop our imaginary worlds, even if they are sometimes blocked or hijacked by capitalist industry. I think that softness can be a good way of reaching out to those dreams again.

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

Yes, and this softness is found precisely in those moments of specific attention which are paid to the deceased. I found very fitting and very beautiful in the gestures that you are proposing—perhaps we will come back to this a little later—the invitation to movement which serves as the first part of our exchange, but also gestures that are of the order of birth as well. So perhaps we come back to the specific case of the movements you shared with us. When you talk about this new piece, you refer to your adopted role as a bridge, which seems to me to be very interesting from many points of view—a bridge from one practice to another, from one person to another, from one real world to another, which could perhaps be a spectral world. I wanted to know how you envisage, in this particular session, your role as a bridge, as you are involved in an intimate exchange with the participants on a one-to-one basis? How did you imagine the evolution of your role as a bridge in this specific context?

Benjamin Bertrand

I think that there is an element that it would be careless to forget and that is modesty. I like this idea of a fundamental distance between beings when we meet. There is always a distance; a distance that is so tense. For this session, I began from two videos that I filmed in Kyoto which I consider as improvisations, and from which many different bodies emerged in one hour of improvisation. They are really the compositional materials for the solo. I cut these videos into sequences and also into images so as to have a form of atlas and the multiplicity of what these dances brought to the surface. But I didn’t want to create a piece involving poses, that isn’t what interests me. For this sequence, I wanted to get the participants to focus on the breath, to being aware of the lung, of this movement of expansion and retraction, this kind of wave. That is how it begins. There are also some gestures that coming from meditative practice or at least from a practice of immobility, because I always started these improvisations with 10–15 minutes of complete immobility—or at least an attempt at complete immobility—to really feel what settles in the muscle, in the skin. There’s also this idea of resistance: what is a body that remains motionless in a space while being in contact with another body. What we can share through immobility, that is something that interests me. I also wanted to share very clear paths of energy in the body—energy going through the wrist and then through the fingers and then back through the head... really trying to outline flows of energy and to share them.

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

Do you have any recommendations for participants who are at home and who would like to take up or respond to this invitation to the movement, is there anything you would like to say to them?

Benjamin Bertrand

Yes, I would be very interested in their relationship to immobility and the sensations they may experience. I don’t think that you have to be a dancer to feel the distance, the space that is deployed in the spine or to feel the contraction or the expansion of a muscle, and to feel one’s gaze as well. That was also very important during my residency. Dance is made of two kinds of gaze: the peripheral gaze that opens up towards the horizon, to 180 degrees, and the gaze that focuses on the tiniest detail. Perhaps I could say that you should try and feel your body as a whole but also try to feel the tiniest things, the smallest tremble—you will tremble, I tremble too—try to feel that. I think Dante said in the Inferno that the tremor is the mark of the masterpiece. I like to think that paying attention to the tremor, to the blood flow, to this body that feeds on energy, because we are talking about melancholic energy which comes from the earth, is a collective experience; it’s not just our own sadness or particularities. I really believe that it’s a story—without wanting to use grandiose language—a collective story of our traumas, I feel like that is really the central concern of our practices.

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

That really speaks to the central objective of the Warm-Up Sessions beyond this period of crisis, which is to have a collective encounter in the presence of a performer. We are interested in this shared experience and the construction of this commonality, now communicated through digital networks which still allow for this type of encounter. I think that this is very much part of the concerns of our own practices, whether it is artistic creation, curation, etc.—how can we recreate these connections, connections that can be durable, traces that could also become archives of your creations and your research and also for those who have been involved in this unique participatory experience. I think that your invitation through movement takes up this challenge, and I would like to thank you for that.

Benjamin Bertrand

Thank you.

Madeleine Planeix-Crocker

Please do not hesitate to share your feedback with us, we would love to hear about your experience with this format and we hope to see you in the flesh, and in mind and spirit, very soon here at Lafayette Anticipations. Thank you, Benjamin.