You describe yourself as a “choreographic portraitist”, and many see you as one of the founders of so-called documentary dance. What can you tell us about these two characteristic elements of your creations?
Portraiture and documentary are interdependent. Since I was very young, I have had this odd appetite for encounters: I am interested in people’s careers, their experiences, but also, and above all, in their movements. I also draw my inspiration from contemporary topics which are currently being debated around the world. My artistic work is a mixture of the two: I embody these collective themes through life paths and individual stories. Staging them makes it possible to approach these themes as a documentary would, but in my own way: with sensitivity. Each of the portraits I create is a testimony.
At the 2018 Lyon Biennale, you created Franchir la nuit with six dancers and a group of migrant children. You have been working on exile for a long time: how has this expressed itself through your works?
I am the child of a couple who fled war in Algeria, and I grew up in France. At a very young age, I realised that I systematically perceive current, political and historical events through both the prism of French culture and that of my family background. This duality — between social discourse and family narratives — has continued to inform my sensibility. When I tackle a subject, and here you mention the subject of migrant children with Franchir la nuit, I propose a point of entry that is based both on what we already know, in the collective consciousness, and on what the person in question is telling us, his or her individual and personal experience. I don’t know if it's a kind of activism but, for me, creating a work means building a fabric of relationships between individuals, taking into account the entire process which leads up to the show.
In partnership with Yoann Bourgeois, you have focused the CCN2 (the Grenoble National Choreographic Centre) on openness, territory and inter-disciplinary interaction. How do you two work together?
I have worked with circus performers for a long time: thanks to their comfort working in all kinds of spaces, these artists have brought me closer to the circus arts. When I had to consider the new direction for the CCN2 in Grenoble. I wanted to expand the usual definition of “choreography”: for the vast majority of audiences, this term evokes dance first and foremost. However, there are film directors, stage directors and circus artists whose work is absolutely choreographed. To me it seemed an intelligent and timely move for the CCN2 to become, more broadly, a centre for movement arts where personalities would be put on stage in all their uniqueness and their ability to create poetic spaces, rather than a formal representation of disciplines.
What drew you to co-directing the Grenoble CCN2 with Yoann Bourgeois, an artist from a discipline other than dance?
What appealed to me about this co-direction was the synergy that exists between me and Yoann Bourgeois: Yoann uses approaches that focus on the environment in which locations exist, whereas, for my part, I approach these same places through the prism of human beings, the people who inhabit them.
In the artistic world of live performance, we produce works and then share them in order to "teach" the audience about artistic creation. The professionals tend to emphasise the final work created. For us, the pre-performance time spent on creation and the post-performance time during which we discover places and audiences are just as important. With Franchir la nuit, we first went in search of a space through people and their sensibilities. The places we are in and the people we are with become the subject of our works. This also applies to the projects of the artists that we support as CCN2: we are on the lookout for artists who are trying to develop their art through this friction with the real world.
You are the guest curator for the Outdoor section of the Bolzano Danza Festival from July 11th to 26th 2019. What is your project?
Bolzano is a very special city with an architectural heritage from two distinct periods — the Germanic period which produced medieval architecture from that era, and the totalitarian period of the early twentieth century with its fascist architecture. Today, 80% of the population still speaks German, it is a bilingual city. The Bolzano Danza festival examines the question of the other, of difference. I very much work in this tradition. The project for this festival is to offer people who already know the city of Bolzano a more contemplative, more poetic new perspective on it, by looking at its locations from different angles. There I'm working with shows, combining criticism and performances, which interrogate the notion of borders and psychological or dreamlike internal territories.
You work on creation, communication and distribution projects in France and internationally. How do you approach these collaborations?
Whether in Asia, Africa, America or Europe, I seek to understand the cultural and social realities in which, and with which, I am working. I’m on the hunt for any little oddity, the slightest unknown details specific to this environment. This exploration then allows me to invent new artistic forms and invite local artists who often remain isolated and whose works, in my opinion, deserve to be discovered and presented. My own mixed background gives me a passionate desire to meet different people and artists, and to bring together different artistic disciplines.
Wrought (“Tordre”), by Rachid Ouramdane
The works of Rachid Ouramdane have toured in Africa, in America and in Asia with the support of the Institut français for more than 15 years.
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