He made his acrobats fly and fall to Bach’s Art of Fugue. Now, Yoann Bourgeois is asking them to stay standing, or at least to keep their balance when, at any moment, the floor could give way beneath their feet. A radical intention in a circus of existential import.
What was the creative spark for this new piece?
With this project, I want to achieve an unusual theatricality by making a radical statement: any given situation arises from a power struggle. The scenography I designed consists of a floor, a simple plank activated by various mechanisms (balance, centrifugal force, sway…). Six individuals (a sort of minimum representation of humanity) are on the floor and try to stay standing. They react to physical constraints and never initiate the movement. It is the struggle between this mass and one constraint or another that gives rise to a situation. The multitude of physical principles engenders a multitude of situations. The situations I conjure have a rather particular character, which I’ll call polysemic. I want to position my theatre on that sharp crest where things appear.
Your vision of circus makes use of the notion of “non-action” rather than manipulation. What does that distinction allow you to do?
My intention is to radically refine my gesture by calling upon a well-honed principle of the circus arts: the actor is a vector for forces that pass through him. He is crossed and moved by flows that he translates as best he can. While this is a gesture taken from the circus, it is also a particular way of representing mankind: if we think that man is not at the centre of the universe, there’s no reason for him to be centre-stage. In my ideal ring (regardless of whether this circus actually exists), man coexists on a horizontal plane alongside animals, machines, etc... without dominating them. By repositioning things this way, I find humanity all the more disturbing.
Why, from very early on, have you sought to “deconstruct” the circus?
I want to see what this material I love so dearly is made of so that I can discover its intrinsic powers. My feeling is that it’s about the propensity of the circus for new forms of theatricality, and that it is indeed a source. So my working process resembles something of a subtraction: I want to eliminate from my research all extraneous elements. I simplify my forms to better highlight the forces at play. It’s also a way for me to make my contribution to building the history of the circus.
Shouldn’t building that history also include compiling a repertory, as in dance, the theatre and, today, performance art?
I keep an eye on the state of the circus arts to try to identify what might be the current challenges. The circus is indeed in a very peculiar situation: its history is highly orchestrated from “the outside.” Paradoxically, and in spite of the bene!ts of wide recognition, the circus receives proportionally very little support. The risk is that of standardisation. That is why I also work in schools to shape the way the circus arts are taught, so that a repertory can be built. To do that, we have to learn about writing and invent methods of writing that suit this practice.
How do you work?
We created our company to maintain a continual work process. We started four years ago. I have a small team working with me, with a view to the long term. We favour an experimental and empirical process. We invent our methods as we go forward, with no pre-existing base. We like to start with sketches. The ones that function independently become complete acts. After four years of work, I am beginning to see the emergence of a constellation of small shapes gravitating around a central notion: the suspension point. Recently, I decided to give a name to this ongoing research and I called it “attempts to reach a suspension point.” I’m very attached to a creative dimension that is experienced in the broadest sense because, above all, it’s about extraordinary adventures in life. Each artistic project determines its own modus operandi, its own form of existence.
"If we think that man is not at the centre of the universe, there’s no reason for him to be centre-stage. In my ideal ring, man coexists on a horizontal plane alongside animals, machines, etc. without dominating them."
Piece for 6 dancers — 2014 — Run time 1h15 approx.
Conception, mise en scène et scénographie : Yoann Bourgeois, assisté de Marie Fonte
Avec : Julien Cramillet, Marie Fonte, Mathieu Bleton, Dimitri Jourde, Elise Legros et Vania Vaneau — Réalisation - Scénographie : Nicholas von der Borch, Nicolas Picot et Pierre Robelin — Lumière : Adèle Grépinet — Son : Antoine Garry — Direction technique : Pierre Robelin — Régie générale : David Hanse — Direction de production : Maud Rattaggi
Yoann Bourgeois est artiste associé à la MC2: Grenoble
Spectacle présenté avec la participation exceptionnelle de la région Rhône-Alpes — Accueil : Opéra de Lyon, Biennale de la danse
Ce spectacle est présenté en avant-première à la MC2: Grenoble, le samedi 13 septembre.
Production Cie Yoann Bourgeois – Coproductions MC2: Grenoble, Biennale de la danse de Lyon 2014, Théâtre de la Ville - Paris, Maison de la Culture de Bourges, L’hippodrome - Scène Nationale de Douai, Le Manège de Reims - Scène Nationale, Le Parvis - Scène Nationale de Tarbes Pyrénées, Centre culturel Agora, Pôle national des arts du cirque de Boulazac, Théâtre du Vellein, La brèche - Pôle national des arts du cirque de Basse-Normandie / Cherbourg-Octeville – Résidence de création MC2: Grenoble et la Brèche - Pôle national des arts du cirque de Basse-Normandie / Cherbourg-Octeville – Maîtrise d’oeuvre et construction Ateliers de la Maison de la Culture de Bourges, Cenic Constructions, C3 Sud Est – Aide à la création DGCA, DRAC Rhône-Alpes, Région Rhône-Alpes, Conseil Général de l’Isère
La Compagnie Yoann Bourgeois est conventionnée par la ville de Grenoble et bénéficie du soutien de la Fondation BNP Paribas pour le développement de ses projets.
Photo et portrait © Magali Bozi