LOVE, a piece in capital letters. Or how, in 2003, Loïc Touzé took stock of ten years of work in conceptual and performance dance, and shifted it to cabaret to get closer to “the worst in contemporary dance.”
Questions to Loïc Touzé.
LOVE is a piece from 2003, at a turning point in dance and, more broadly, in the performing arts (strikes by temporary show-business workers). With hindsight, why is this piece a kind of manifesto?
The piece was created for the Mettre en Scène Festival which devoted that year’s show theme to the cause of temporary event workers. Half of the time it took to create the piece was spent on activism alongside the entire team (meetings, demonstrations). It was the energy of a militant revolt that fed the energy of LOVE. If it’s a manifesto, it would be because the work benefits from ten years of a conceptual and performance landscape. It’s a piece that emerges, derives, feeds and clothes itself from the dual performance and conceptual world.
LOVE returns to the theatre, after a series of performances in alternative settings such as vacant lots and art centres. What were the limitations to that exercise?
Believing at the time that changing the position of the spectators – moving them around, putting them in beds, hovering over the choreographic work, making them a full participant in the performance – would change their point of view and perception. The limitations we discovered were that the spectators always reposition themselves in a cultural relationship, facing the observed object. It’s not by changing the vantage point of the spectators that you change their view. You would have to do things in such a way that the work contains a missing place, that of the spectator, so that it can be revealed. LOVE went back to the stage because I was thinking at the time that we mustn’t abandon the theatre.
There is some "ne work with facial expressions, which is a break from the neutrality of contemporary dance: what avenues did you explore?
We took inspiration from a corpus of striking images: Valeska Gert and Kazuo Ohno. And then some whimsical borrowings from mime – the poor cousin of contemporary dance – especially Decroux. We wanted to get closer to the worst of contemporary dance, the worst of mime and pantomime. The reason was quite simple: I think that part of my work touches on cabaret or comes from a taste for cabaret. Because what interests me in cabaret is the proximity of the show space: a limited space in which we see the faces and hands as the first signs of the imaginary construction of the artist. And this construction is shared with the audience.
We watched a lot of silent movies: Ivan the Terrible by Eisenstein, Keaton, Chaplin, Tati… a large body of burlesque cinema inspired our work. We did tap-dancing, we watched American music-hall comedies, Savion Glover and Faces by Cassavetes. Then drawings by Carlo Blasi that reproduce diagrams of skeletons in positions of intentionality. For example: a skeleton acting amazed or despondent.
Nudity was a common state in conceptual dance. What is the purpose of nudity in LOVE?
We first saw nudity as a useful experience in the process of creating the animal sequence. To understand it, we had to be naked. The skin becomes a sensor for detecting information. The entire perceptive state is modi!ed by not having fabric on the body. This is in contrast with the time when nudity was represented by nudity. This is a nudity that never shows a body naked or exhibited as naked. It’s a nudity that transforms, for example, the illuminated space of the scene.
When did the title come to you?
The initial title was Classique. The idea was to create a classic. But during the first improvisations that I filmed, Yves-Noël Genod wrote LOVE with white chalk on the studio wall. We never erased it.
"I think that part of my work touches on cabaret : a limited space in which we see the faces and hands as the first signs of the imaginary construction of the artist."
Piece for 6 dancers — 2003 — Run time 1h05
Conception : Loïc Touzé & Latifa Laâbissi en collaboration avec Jocelyn Cottencin
Danseurs : Loup Abramovici, Alina Bilokon, Rémy Héritier, Yves-Noël Genod, Carole Perdereau, Lina Schlageter — Dispositif scénique : Jocelyn Cottencin — Création lumières : Yannick Fouassier — Régie : Max Potiron
Production association ORO – 391. Production déléguée ORO – Coproduction Théâtre national de Bretagne / Rennes ; CNDC Angers – direction Emmanuelle Huynh – Avec le soutien de Adami, Musiques et danses en Bretagne ORO est soutenu par l’État - Préfet de la région Pays de la Loire - direction régionale des affaires culturelles, la Région Pays de la Loire, la Ville de Nantes, le Département Loire Atlantique et reçoit l’aide de l’Institut Français pour ses projets à l’étranger.
Photo © Jocelyn Cottencin - Portrait © Christophe Raynaud de Lage