The body in its prolongations

‘‘It is not a question of creating a digression, but more of projecting a clear reality upon an enormous imaginary screen.’’ Pavese, Le Métier de vivre.

Exercise No.1

Prepare a beverage of your choice, place the glass or cup on a table and seat yourself nearby, such that the receptacle stays just out of reach.
A moment of contemplation, then close your eyes.
Extend your hand as if to take the object, without actually moving your pelvis, which remains in place on the chair.
You are thus effectuating a prolongation, a projection of your intention.  This situation may lead to various transformations throughout the body, the side of the body of the extended hand being the most susceptible: the stretch of a muscle, a little more space between the ribs, a chain of modifications is undergone by each articulation, from the very last phalanges of your fingers just until your sitting hips, there is also most likely a change of pressure in your feet: your tonus is perturbed…
Above all else, it’s your state of being that changes, you find yourself carried by the intention, which moves through you and continues beyond you.  Between the ground, the chair, the extended hand and the object, a network is born, a network in which you are both receiver and transmitter.
In certain of our performances such initiating motors are prevalent and in what follows I wish to elaborate on their specificities.

Light! (2003): the fold

This performance probably best exemplifies the notion of prolongation, as the body receives light, but also creates an obstacle for it through its opacity, projecting shadows that endlessly deform into the creation of monsters who resemble us, disproportionate silhouettes, phantasmic flares or somber masses with the most abstract of contours – which evoke simultaneously the extension of our ‘‘dark ideas’’ and the threat of dissolving into them.
The body must always be situated with a precision that is almost mathematical – from the point of view of distance and angulation – in relation to the source of light on one hand and shadows on the other.  It is in dialogue with the light, with the shadow giving its interpretation, that a deformed echo intervenes in the conversation in a way that is always tempestuous, buffoon, excessive.
Like our imaginary fears, it multiplies the details, amplifies the murmur, dilates what is minuscule: a finger, placed just next to a light source, unleashes a somber tide by the mere undulation of a finger, the arc of a leg creates a mountain, a foot an avalanche….  The body’s very rhythm is reinterpreted by the shadows: the very same, made larger, by a displaced arm, reproduces the movement at a quicker speed, while crossing a vastly greater distance (creating the difficulty, in rehearsal, of finding the ‘‘right rhythm for the shadow’’ such that it remains intact and visible).
Small details pertaining to costuming may also lead to substantial deformations:  a fur coat transforms the body into a gigantic hairy monster; the roundness of a kneepad becomes a turgid prepuce.
Everything is conceived so that the shadow, with its ephemeral, inconsistent and bi-dimensional nature, acquires a certain depth, becomes tangible, palpable, finds its own breath and is autonomous.  So that it appears to dominate the person from whom it originates, subjugating them, taking them by the hand, or by the skin on their back, into the maze of its own mania.

Twin Houses (1994): the shoulder

In this piece life is breathed into silhouettes that are hung on the body:  several figures take turns inhabiting the shoulder of the performer, such that the two find themselves engaged in an often conflictual, sometimes harmonious relationship, obliged to share, like Siamese twins, the same bodily entity.
If in Light! The prolongation is of an epidermic nature – the inner-intention being to traverse the body while amplifying its contours, the ‘‘swelling’’ of the shadow – in
Twin Houses the aim is to render one’s own center sufficiently stable and solid, in order to slide past the intention and impulse and arrive at the vital center of the mannequin located at the base of its neck, the meeting place of the two entities (sliding toward a peripheral zone, its hand for example, makes the gestures too mechanical.)
At the same time, to efface one’s self, thus giving the figure the appearance of operating on its own initiative, of thinking for itself, of having an inner-world to express, so that finally the two presences become equal, to the degree to which we are not sure which is living and which is not.
It’s a form of prolongation that we’d say was destined to be brought to life by the loss of life and yet asks to be more than ever centered, present in its own right, so as to never lose the connection with the projections, just as one holds fast to a kite in contrary winds.

Gradiva (1998): the thread

In a completely different manner, in Gradiva, the body itself becomes a prolongation by way of a cord manipulated from backstage that descends from the gridiron to a vertical position and controls the body by a belt supporting the pelvis.
The body loses a part of its own weight, creating fleeting images in the surrounding space: drawing oblique and stable lines that its weight would normally make impossible, letting itself be carried by centrifugal forces, seeming to fly, to be seated in the void.
The prolongation has a double sense: on one hand, there’s the person behind, controlling the cord, on the other is the performer: two impulses are at times in tandem (pushing off from the ground with the added tension of the cord makes for higher elevation) and at others in opposition to each other, when the cord endlessly drags the performer back to their place in the center of a circle where they are attached and constrained to move.
Elevation, lightness, but also tension and extreme dependence, in order to tell the story of a diva, both powerful in her magnified solitude and a simple marionette….

Générations (2004): cardinal directions

We have instigated performances/solos, in which the establishment of a dialogue with one or another element permits the performer to not be the subject, but rather a place of transmission and perhaps of transfer for the audience.
In Générations, a group of dancers, perched on pedestals that they do not vacate, create a kind of network: their gestures – always fed by a relationship with the exterior, the space or a partner – are what allow for the rendering of an ‘‘in-between’’, modes of transmission that are visible and ‘‘palpable to the eye’’.
One of the first ways of approaching the material was through improvisations; two by two the performers shared some of their weight with the other, while moving symbiotically.  They then had to separate, without further tactile or visual contact and observe what, in their present condition, was left over in their bodies: gestures of the incomplete are born, creating forms that will be further investigated in what follows.  They leave the performer in a state of precarious balance, with body-parts that seem to embrace the void, with a head that seeks to conspire with another head, now absent.  This solitude is redistributed in the space and put into the network, and with empathy as a guide, each dancer in a way completes, at a distance, the emptiness that surrounds each of the others.
These research labs led to a larger installation, destined for non-theatrical spaces, in which a frontal view is abandoned to allow for various angles of vision:  the audience is free to circulate as they will, choosing their own point of view.
This network contains ‘‘points of escape’’, shared directions chosen according to cardinal directions:  converging and non-parallel directions create a shared ‘‘elsewhere’’ in which each body has its own orientation.  In each attempt to flee, they confirm the connections between them, while creating openings that will in turn be ‘‘restructured’’ by the audience as they move about:  the audience members’ points of view also serve as prolongations, which intersect, accompany or ‘‘evade’’ those of the performer.
During the performance it often comes down to the same: the interference between the audience and the stage, between each individual (with the particularity of each point of view, their history and imagination) and that which is suggested on stage by the bodies, the energies, the sound, the sense underlying the whole.
What is important for us, in the end, is the prolongation that the audience will effectuate, in a manner that is more or less conscious, in daily life, in their dreams, in their own creative acts – whatever form they make take…

Exercise No.2

You may now take the receptacle abandoned on the table and calmly drink its contents …