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Portrait Boris Charmatz

Dancer and choreographer, but also the creator of experimental projects such as the ephemeral Bocal school, the Musée de la danse [terrrain], Boris Charmatz submits dance to constraints which redefine the realms of its possibilities. This Portrait, which opens with La Ruée, the last event hosted by the Musée de la danse in Rennes in 2018, takes us through, from the inaugural duo À bras-le-corps (1993) to the profusion of 1000 gestes, the various strata of his work: performer-lead, like boléro 2 / étrangler le temps with Emmanuelle Huynh, occupation of vertical spaces with Aatt enen tionon, events reflecting history such as La Ruée, 20 danseurs pour le XXe siècle and the place of the spoken word in La Fabrique at the CND. and monumental and participatory projects such as La Ronde et Happening Tempête at the Grand Palais. From the smallest of scales to the largest, from the most organic to the most conceptual, this Portrait takes us on a journey through the proliferation of forms of an artist in the hands of whom dance has become a vehicle for different states and ideas: a playground in a constant state of expansion.

The Festival d’Automne à Paris has been supporting your work for almost twenty-five years now, with projects at times both demanding and radical. Is the Portrait dedicated to you the opportunity to come to terms with the important moments in your choreographic body of work?

For me, the Festival d’Automne à Paris represents a long-term form of support – without which many projects would undoubtedly not have been possible. Almost all of my pieces have been coproduced and presented at the Festival, thanks, amongst others to the continued support of Marie Collin. More than anything, the Festival has accompanied the major shifts and discontinuity in my work. The diversity of my projects has always been encouraged, from the minute to the gigantesque. Added to this is the fact that I do not produce a new piece of work each year, and the fact that I might make a piece designed for the stage, and then follow on from that with a piece for just one spectator… such as héâtre-élévision, which was shown in the basement areas of the Centre Pompidou.
Going beyond production, the Festival d’Automne à Paris brings with it both a spirit and a history. It was where I met Barychnikov, or where I had the opportunity to listen to contemporary music concerts which were a source of inspiration to me once I started developing the herses project, based on the work of Lachenmann. It was how I discovered Galina Oustvolskaïa whose music we sung in héâtre-élevision and in Quintette cercle. The Festival has been a place of work for me, but also of discoveries, encounters with other artists, and of choreographic, musical and visual arts-based affinities… That said, I would not like to create the impression that I am a “child of the Festival d’Automne à Paris”. I am also a child of the cultural decentralisation process: I experienced a host of works and shows which left a mark on me in what was then referred to as the “provinces”, in Grenoble, Lyon and so on. My personal journey also corresponds to demands, from the 1980’s onwards, for the statute of professional artist to be extended to dancers and choreographers. Here within the Festival, it was possible for this place to be found.

How is a “Portrait” drawn up? How do you navigate between the desire to revive pieces that have not been performed for a long time, and that of situating oneself in the present?
The choice I have made is to be relatively un-retrospective. I spent almost ten years in Rennes with the Musée de la danse, and since then I founded the [terrain] association in the Hauts-de-France region. The Musée de la danse continues to filter into certain projects to be presented, but it is not the focal point. That said, the departure point for this Portrait has been the re-making of La Ruée – the last Musée de la danse project at the MC93. Also, from a relatively early stage we agreed that this Portrait needed to end in the Grand Palais. This gave us a point of departure and a point of arrival. We then needed to construct a journey between these two points – fault lines, and also lines of convergence. The whole project came together little by little, in collaboration with the partner venues, their desires and our own. My choreographic body of work is not absent but the Rmn-Grand Palais has given me the opportunity to work on large-scale, like La Ronde.This will be followed by Happening Tempête that will close the Grand Palais' programme for a weekend before four years of renovation work. In the nave of the Grand Palais, you can exhibit the empty architecture, treat the space as a mass, a crowd; but you can also chisel this space with a form close to that of a jewel: a delicate attention paid to the singularity of the bodies. I like the opposition between the couple, its intimacy, and the fact of seeing two lost bodies, drowned in this glass cathedral. This mix of participatory and performative performances and events makes more sense to me than just showing a series of works for the set. It is more in line with what I would like my work to be today. The Portrait, is the reflection of these interwoven layers - between interpretation, compositional work, and the invention of another type of institution, resolutely inscribed in the public space. The Festival is very much a place for showing or displaying, but for me, this is going to be a sort of ongoing workshop lasting for several months! With this Portrait, I would like to blur the frontiers between body and project: between amateurs, professionals, actors, audience members, children and adults alike, inside and outside… This movement to and fro will bring a necessary coherence to the whole.