Whist, by AΦE Company
With Whist, shown at the Palais de Chaillot from March 10 to March 20, Esteban Fourmi and Aoi Nakamura, founders of the AΦE Company, offer an astonishing experience combining dance and virtual reality, allowing the viewer to travel through the meanderings of their unconsciousness.
Two dance-theatre enthusiasts
The French Esteban Fourmi and Japanese Aoi Nakamura both began their training with classical dance in the early 2000s: Esteban at Cannes, at the Rosella Hightower School, Aoi at the Berlin Ballet School. They both turned to contemporary dance before embracing dance-theatre, notably at the Jasmin Vardimon Company. It was there that they met in 2011 and decided in 2014 to set up their own troupe, the AΦE Company.
The duo lead dance performances off stage driven by new technologies, questioning the tools that transform body movements and also the imagination.
A virtual reality experience
Whist does not take place on stage, but in an enclosed space in the heart of a theatre where the audience can walk around. Equipped with a virtual reality headset, which reacts to sculptures scattered throughout the room, the viewer finds themself immersed in an art installation, where they discover the fears and dreams of a family and a surreal world.
Each participant in this immersive experience follows their own narrative framework according to the different choices offered by virtual reality, and evolves – or dances – in this space according to their desires. Each person thus becomes their own director and choreographs a new performance.
Esteban Fourmi and Aoi Nakamura wanted to work on the myth of the Minotaur and Freudian thinking that compares the unconscious to a labyrinth. In Whist, the narrative is centred around three characters, but with 76 different tracks according to each person’s unconscious choice.
This result was not possible at the start of the project in 2014, as technical tools often only offer a very linear virtual reality with a single narrative path. The creation of specific technical tools was essential to keep this multifaceted narrative intact and to bring this creation to a conclusion.
Combining dance and theatre with cutting-edge technology, Whist took three years to see the light of day.
A world tour
Since its first performance in the UK in April 2017, Whist has shown in 19 cities in 10 countries, from Australia to Malaysia to Russia and Germany, each meeting with critical success (“An incredible experience” for The Observer, “Powerful, refreshing, exciting” for Creative Review).
It has been widely shown like other projects from the AΦE Company, which has worked for major international institutions such as the Lyon Dance Biennial (2018) and Sadler's Wells Theatre in London with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (2018).