She is at the library of the art center for dance in Paris; she is studying.
As the narrator said, I am at the library of the National Center of Dance in Paris, more exactly in Pantin, where I’m living. I am researching on Oskar Schlemmer: a german painter, sculptor, designer and choregrapher. He is most known for being part of Bauhaus school of Dessau. He worked on the concept of abstract theatre. Preoccupied by the question of abstraction and choregraphed sculpture, he created Tiradisches Ballet in 1922. This is a symphonic dance cut in three parts which have each one a color: yellow lemon, pink and then black. The dancer’s movements were forced by the costumes. It was a real performance for them, they had to adapt their movement to the weight of suits. To construct the gestures in a given space in Man and art figure, Schlemmer said that the function of a costume is not to point a character but to produce a figure, to manifest a spatial being of body. He talks about plastic spatial. It’s something that really interests me. This makes me think of another artist: Heidi Bucher. Her work focuses on the question of the body’s relationship to space and in the representation of movement and fluidity in sculpture. In 1972, she shot a video in 8mm, at Venice Beach California, called Bodyshells. I really like this work and I want to share it with you. I’m sure you will see the link with Schlemmer.
All this research is the starting point of something bigger for me: the discover of the Russian Ballet. This company was created by Serge Diaghilev during the first part of the twentieth century. These men reinvented totally the notion of ballet. He created a total break with the classical ballet whether in dance, music, set and costumes. Diaghilev maked a strong link between art, music and dance. This is precisely what interests me here. At first, he wanted to import the slavic culture in Occident by collaborating with musicians and artists from Russia : Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bakst, Gontcharova. Then, he decided to invite avantgarde artists as Cocteau, Picasso, Matisse, De Chirico, Coco Chanel, etc… Russian Ballet inspired by the oriental culture, the russian folklorism instead of the futurism.
I have read many articles, books on this subject. There is a vast iconography around Russian Ballet. But I am always surprised by these archives. There is a lot of stories about Diaghilev, his life and his particular relationship to Nijinsky, one of the dancers. There is also testimony about the bad reception of the show, at first it was too innovative but then it was great success. But I find something very strange in these documents. The presence of dance and movements have disappeared and we access to the ballet in an indirect way. Indeed, every photograph, every exhibition, every book are always about these collaborations. In November, I went to the museum of dance in Stockholm. They acquired many of the costumes of Russian Ballet in their permanent collection. Unfortunetaly only few of them were presented, some clothing, hats and accessories were locked in boxes, as if they were just coming from a cargo. They were floating like ghosts in their boxes, alone in the museum. Are they now soft sculptures? A plastic spatial?But thankfully they produced a magnificent book where we discover all the costumes. Sorry I couldn’t bring it here, it is to big and heavy… In many books, there is also black and white photographs where we see the dancers posing in front of a neutral background. I chose a few of them from the Cleopatra show, in 1909 then in 1918. These pictures are very interesting for their nature and construction, out of context we don’t know if this is from a theatre piece, a fashion shoot, an art performance or from something else. Here, the costumes have been made by Leon Bakst. He used new textiles and new colors. Mikhail Fokine and Vera Fokina, the dancers are like pantomime. As I said before the gesture is suggested but not really present. In these picture, Sonia Delaunay has designed the costumes. These costumes evoke an exotic universe. We are very far from the white tutu and dance slipper. For the communication of the show, they used these pictures or drawings made by the artists. What is significant here is the contemporaneity of this project.
Russian Ballet have always been a source of inspiration for a lot of artists and stylist; for example, Yves Saint Laurent made an entire collection about this in 1976. The ballet is still replayed and rethought by the most influentials choregraphers, like Maurice Béjart or Benjamin Millepied (in France) where he invited Buren to make the set. I discovered Russian Ballet in an indirect way, not for the dance but for everything around it.
Now back to the present and let’s speak about my artistic project. I’m not a dancer neither a choregrapher, what I want to do is using this iconography as a tool to create my own ballet: Apogon.
I rely on the different types of documents in order to create my own methodology. Apogon, my contemporary ballet, exists only by the presence of objects and of the story. There will be no show, only the set, props, music, costumes and the story. It is through this way that my ballet takes shape step by step.
THE ENCOUNTER WITH OCTAVE,
WELCOME TO APOGON
She is near the outdoor pool in Apogon, she is talking to us.
Wellness is the optimal state of health. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfillment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings. Maintaining an optimal level of wellness is absolutely crucial to live a higher quality life. Wellness matters. Wellness matters because everything we do and every emotion we feel relates to our well-being. In turn, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions. It’s an ongoing circle. Therefore, it is important for everyone to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.
This is why we are here in Apogon, with Octave and the others: to relax. It is not like the other thermal baths. The water is believed to have special giving properties.
The first time I met Octave he was swimming the butterfly stroke. The mouvement of his arms brought a lot of water around him. I liked to watch him because the gesture was rhythmic and cyclic, as clock hand. It was also the first time he spoke to me. There was a big gust of wind and my tube of cream fell into the water. He tried to catch it but it was too late… my tube of cream became heavy and very big. We knew when something falls in the water there will be a transformation on it, except for our body and our swimsuit because they gave us a special soap on our arrival.
Once, my socks dropped in the water and they became as hard as stone. Sometimes we had good surprises and sometimes not. Apogon’s workers put a pair of ceremonial white gloves on and brought the new object to «the splash room» but sometimes they just couldn’t move the mutants objects, due to the weight, condition or heat… Once a month the team of workers did a show for us with these pieces, that’s what I preferred in the program, it’s so nice. That’s why I said it’s a different place. My tube of cream finally stayed in the middle of the swimming pool, as a sculpture, but it’s not easy to swim around. We must adapt ourselves to the transformation of the space. We were wondering with Octave if the cream inside has also grew…
I observe Octave since arriving in Apogon. At first, he looked very sad and shy but since a few weeks ago he is like a fish in water. He wears a beige bathrobe all the time. When we come to Apogon, we must choose a color that we kept for the rest of our stay. Each resident has a unique color for everything: towels, bathrobe, bathing cap, palms, goggles… It is much easier to find our stuff. I recently heard that beige is the new black for Spring/Summer. As you can see, I prefer pink. Now the spectrum of colors available is very low but there are still a lot of green hues.
We became friends since the splash of my tube of cream. We spoke a lot about these transformations in water. About this power… Is it possible to use it and to control it?
I heard that somebody dropped his keys in the water and they were transformed into a pile of dust. He couldn’t return to his room –there isn’t a duplicate of this keys here you are the only owner of your room–. The bed-room will be closed for ever and the poor guy lost all his stuff. Imagine if his dog had stayed in the room that morning… We must be extremely careful with our stuff because we are always around the water and around the pool. We have to respect some rules: do not dive, do not play with water, especially do not swallow water, etc. Everything is explained on banners which are in each one of entrance doors to the swimming pools. We cannot forget it, it is like breathing. As a safety precaution, I decided to buy a protective amulet. I always have it in my pocket. This is a small head, like a li-ttle mask, with solarium glasses. I have to buy a new one every year and return the old one so that it is burned by the sun. My only fear is to forget about the expiry date of my amulet and then lose the protection. But Octave is trying to count the days for me. He has a very special technique, he uses the long seaweed and braids the blades. Here, we must destroy our watches, our calendar, our schedules, etc., upon our arrival. We have no access to the news of the world either. We are in a giant bubble. Apogon’s workers think that it is better to lose the notion of time and so be able to have an optimal relaxation. You must think that it is very strict. It is not. This is not a therapy. Here we are free, happy, serene, placid, smug, relaxed, flash, upbeat, cheerful… Everyone takes care of each other. For example, Octave likes listening to music. He often goes to watch clips. Once, he told me that I absolutely had to listen to a song. He wants to share his pleasure with me. It’s a french musician that I really like and I just found his name: Joakim Bagheera. He lent me his headphones, we began to dance, this is what I was listening to: https://soundcloud.com/joaquinbagheera/les-cocktails-sont-gratuits.
IT IS THE BALLET BEING WRITTEN.