Vice Versa – Radiant tear/weapon
Vice Versa, the short dance form by Nicole Mossoux accompanied by Patrick Bonté, was one of the most striking works of the 2015 Brigittines International Festival. Its minimalism and kindness seem so terribly audacious in our era of total barbarity. Such is its beauty.
Mossoux-Bonté might have a taste for beauty, but there’s an aesthetic of beauty too. Beauty, like a window on the real and not like a screen of the reality of the world and its cruelties. The Miniature (the first in a long series to come) Vice Versa no doubt forms the most beautiful of their aesthetic warning and critical engagement as regards the violence done to "man" wild, here, with murderous jealousy, on the soundtrack/medieval lament Marianson’s Rings performed by Michel Faubert. The roots of Vice Versa are so deep that they inevitably reach the subconscious and spread out into various dimensions.
How to love, desire the other without trapping him and burying him in neurotic disorders to the point of “destroying” him? Vice Versa is the inexhaustible matrix that is terribly and cruelly sexual. Two mossoux-bontean women, "sewn together", meet and dance all the manhandled women in order to slowly rise from the stage and deliver a synoptic vision. Their existence is haunting like the rotation of their pelvis on the stage, lascivious and repetitive, moving forward along a same lit-up corridor or a luminous line in the black hole, constantly dilating the space in concentric circles… A small reprieve (never vindictive or dogmatic) like a far-off refraction. We have the pure and intimate experience without any fanfare as though the kindness that has been returned to the foreground in Vice Versa was perhaps the most terrestrial and most ethereal (subversive?) act in our period of total crisis.
The movements of Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe, two iconic dancers working in the Company, are polished, penetrating. Beyond their mechanics, they create a shock that, little by little, takes hold of us. The questions raised are vaster and more disturbing than the single issue of domestic violence. They grasp us all of a sudden with the size of the gulf that they open beneath our feet: VIOLENCE, that of the world, historical, economic, political, ontological… the progressive detachment of man in relation to humanism which makes his relationship with the living more and more difficult, and makes it increasingly barbaric, today.
In the background, the two women no longer attached to one another struggle, between delight and the wrench of separation. Like a coup de grace, their deeply troubled and suspended gestures brutally split the space to Thomas Turine’s musical fade-out. Possibly a way to give Vice Versa a less dramatic absolute touch, to go beyond the visible, believe that man is a humanism and that the future still propounds a real ideal. To reach towards the possibility or at the very least draw close to it.
Sylvia Botella, RTBF.be / August 2015
Vice Versa opens a new chapter in the life of the Brussels dance troupe Mossoux-Bonté, a series of short forms of which the first and only one to have been created to date, is a female duo, rather short, yet far from "Miniature". An ethereal and airy summary, yet, needless to say, tragic at the same time.
Here are two soulmates, or else the splitting of one and the same soul. This rift which is constantly present in the work of Mossoux-Bonté is a disturbing motif, beginning with the famous Twin Houses and then in pieces like Kefar Nahum and Les Buveuses de Café.
But where the confrontation between two parts of a conscience usually makes it possible to look in the direction of the abysses that we like to hide, it is not a split but a fusion. The abyss is already there, in the text.
After three days and three nights,
He got back on his horse.
He didn’t go like a sensible man
He went like powder and the wind.
Nicole Mossoux’s choreography has something hypnotic about it. Repetitive like the rhythm of the ballad, fusion of pain and its consolation, it includes poetry as much as the madness triggered by the violence of men. It embodies the rocking of the child and the gallop of the horse.
“Oh, God watch over you! loyal knight;
What news have you brought me?”
― “Your wife has given birth to a son,
She has made me her friend.”
On horseback, we take off. The gallop is the country equivalent of the theatrical and romantic lightness of the ballerina. But the gallop of Renaud, convinced he had been cheated on by Marianson, is a ride towards hell, just like the bloody trail of the woman, unfairly suspected, then attached to the horse’s tail.
He took the child by the vest,
Threw him against the tiled floor.
Took his wife by her hair,
And tied her to the horse’s tail.
To these telluric and deadly images, Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté oppose the complicity of Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe in their haunting unison, the innocence of Marianson, her flight towards death, her desire for harmony and happiness.
With the doubling up of Marianson, Vice Versa puts forward a female point of view which goes beyond that of the only interested party. On the back of an imaginary horse, the intensely close flight of the double Marianson embodies the opposite of Renaud and his sinister rival’s destructive energies, a duo that is (fortunately) absent from the stage and yet so present.
Neither accusation, nor victimisation. The lament is enough in itself, and the pas de deux resumes Marianson’s reaction: “Yes, he is pardoned my death’ / But not that of the new-born child!” Vice Versa dances the desire of a love without violence, hope of another way of living in the world, the demand for the right to abandonment and intimacy, to sensuality and fragility, the right to dream without having nightmares.
Thomas Hahn, Danser Canal Historique / September 2016
Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe, two of the company’s emblematic performers, undulate in parallel in a haunting passage. With its imperceptible advances, its unexpected retreats, its sudden interruptions, the use of depth, from the back of the stage to the apron, in Vice Versa rubs off on the words: using tenderness to overcome the pain which rules the world. In less than 20 minutes, we find ourselves in this marvellous yet tragic paradox, where beauty includes the worst in order to better transcend it.
Marie Baudet, La Libre / October 2018
Regarding the origin of the project :
The idea came from a Quebec version sung by Michel Faubert of « Les Anneaux de Marianson » (Marianson’s Rings), a Norman medieval song dating back to the 15th Century. There is this tendency in Quebec to borrow from the traditional Euro-Francophone culture they are impregnated by. I was moved by the tragic story of the song, a real plea for the role of women in the world. The song denounces displaced male jealousy and an erroneous suspicion of adultery that has terrible consequences. A very contemporary musical accompaniment with electronic tones is played in a loop behind Michel Faubert’s voice. I really wanted to dive into its score.
The Company asked the Belgian dancers Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe, with whom we have been working for a long time and feel very close to, to join in on the project. The idea was to introduce flesh and blood into the words, to find a representation for the images in the song without illustrating them. Vice Versa revolves around the intimacy between two women and within groups of women in certain societies – e.g. in the Maghreb countries – who find reassurance in gathering. Far from mankind and from the violence of the world, the body frees and expresses itself. Vice Versa is not a feminist indictment even though the piece is performed by two women (laughter …).
Regarding the audience reception of the piece :
The throbbing movements in Vice Versa transport the members of the audience. But something strange happens. We realized that the audience never really listens to the lyrics of the song (in detail). So far, no one has seemed to mind that the text is in Old French with a few words that have completely disappeared from the language. The story stands only in the background and becomes a support for the dancers and the audience members to dive into a more sensual universe, the connivance between these women instead of the tragic aspect of their narrative.
If you get the chance to read the complete lyrics, you’ll soon get to realize how horrible their story is. Those weren’t fun times for women, and the text still does remind us of what goes on today…
Nicole Mossoux interviewed by Emmanuelle Volage, Unidivers / January 2019
A feminine and spellbinding dance to face violence
The first image one is given to see is that of two women swaying, at the very back of the stage, under uncertain light. The look in their eyes reaching out towards the audience, the movement of their two bodies slow and sinuous soon becomes hypnotic.
One then notices the song that sounds like a refrain from days of yore, in which the repetition – as in the dance – allows us to make towards a sombre and tragic story step by step. The song, Marianson’s Rings (Les Anneaux de Marianson), by an anonymous writer from the XVth century, interpreted by Michel Faubert and orchestrated by Jérôme Minière, accompanies the progression of the two young women from beginning to end. At times, the text narrating the atrocious and stupid vengeance of a husband who believes to have been cheated on is mirrored in the dance partition, and at other times the movements back away from the tale as if the performers were leaving behind the man’s blindness to enable the murdered wife to finally find peace and freedom.
Frauke Mariën and Shantala Pèpe are fascinating in their slow progression towards the front of the stage, during which both will spread their wings, free themselves from one another, to better come together again and form a common front until the last second.
Stirring and powerful, Vice Versa is part of a series of ‘Miniatures’ or short forms – in literary terms, one would call them short-stories – that allow Nicole Mossoux and Patrick Bonté to explore a theme, a set of movements, a universe without turning longwinded. It is a delight to be drawn into this spellbinding union between the dance, the music, the text and the voice of Michel Faubert.
Oscillating between tragedy and enchantment, never falling into the trap of simply illustrating the story, the choreography leads its own life, spreads out, tightens up and frees itself again in a continuing movement that manages to echo the sung tragedy, to make it resonate, and give it a visual response where the determination of the two women shed a light on the absurdity of male violence.
The audience members need a moment of absolute silence before they can extract themselves from the strange spell they were put under and warmly applaud the two performers.
Jean-Marie Wynants, Le Soir / November 2019