He Who Falls ("Celui qui tombe"), by Yoann Bourgeois
For his show, He Who Falls, released in 2016, Yoann Bourgeois plays with balance, in a bold performance combining dance and circus.
A graduate of the National Centre of Circus Arts in Châlons-en-Champagne and the National Centre of Contemporary Dance in Angers, Yoann Bourgeois worked with film director Alexandre del Perugia and choreographer Kitsou Dubois, before becoming a resident artist at the National Choreography Centre in Rillieux-la-Pape. Since 2016, he has been the co-director of the Grenoble choreography centre.
Through his shows, he works with balance and weightlessness, trying to achieve what the Taoists call Wu Weï, a point of suspension where the body and spirit are one. He has even devoted a show to this concept, for which he collaborated with a troupe of Chinese acrobats: Wu-Weï (2012).
Breaking down the barriers between the different disciplines of the performance arts, Yoann Bourgeois is part of the avant garde of the European circus. With He Who Falls, he is embarking on a new creative arc that is more focused on dramaturgy.
He Who Falls is touching in its simplicity. Six acrobat dancers are balanced on a rotating wooden platform. Passengers on an unstable raft, they fight gravity to remain upright. The dance they carry out in the scenes which follow tells us something about life and death, time passing or suspended, without a word being spoken.
Against a somber background, Yoann Bourgeois enhances the tension of the forces present. Fragile poetry emanates from bodies that grip each other, or are propelled, through the air or on land, always on the wire.
The show by Yoann Bourgeois does not define, rather it suggests. Who are these six protagonists? The survivors of a shipwreck? A glimmer of humanity in a world of chaos? The choreographer leaves the door open for interpretation.
The importance of the staging
For Yoann Bourgeois, the creation of a show always responds to an initial question. For He Who Falls, this was: “How can we create a new theatricality?”
Circling this axis, the circus performer carried out his experiments around a simple set. Standing on a rolla bolla, a wooden board atop a cylinder, he tries to catch a bottle of wine to fill a glass. The precarious balance makes him shake, giving the impression that he is drunk.
The theatrical situation thus arises from the staging, rather than from the actor’s performance.
Between Buster Keaton and Giacometti
Set to famous tunes ranging from La Traviata by Verdi to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, He Who Falls has a multitude of references. In the most absurd situations, the clownish shadow of Buster Keaton seems to take hold of the scene, while in the more aerial moments, the bodies frozen in a fragile equilibrium appear to have been sculpted by Giacometti’s invisible hand.
Created at the Lyon Opera as part of the 16th Dance Biennial in 2014, this show by Yoann Bourgeois was performed throughout France and in many European countries, notably in Germany in May 2018.
He Who Falls (“Celui qui tombe”) toured North America in February and March of 2018 with the support of the Institut français.
The show was presented to foreign programmers at two “Focus” events, professional meet-ups organised by the Institut français in 2014 and 2015.