Martine Pisani’s Choreographic Universe
Martine Pisani, who had participated in the IstanbulREconnects Program which was conceived as the launching of iDANS in 2006, returns to the festival with sans – a subtly humorous male trio created in 2000 with the participation of Théo Kooijman, Laurent Pichaud and Olivier Schram. With this work, Pisani once again delves into a playful and unpretentious encounter. On a still and empty stage, the three men appear at the mercy of constant rebounds. Their story is quite droll: amidst withdrawals, hesitations and faux pas, they seem to be facing up to a chain of ruptures.
I had seen Martine Pisani’s work sans in New York for the first time as part of the 2006/2007 program called “Fused” (French U.S Exchange in Dance). I remember that the whole audience, including the legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, laughed into tears. It is difficult if not impossible to translate verbal jokes, jokes based on language. In a way, they set one group apart from another. A joke tried to be told in a different language is no longer funny. However, bodily humor can travel more easily and is more accessible.sans is one of the best examples to the connectivity of bodily humor.
Martine Pisani, answered my questions concerning sans and her general approach to choreography.
G.E: sans – the French word for “without” — literally is without narrative, without text, without any tracable theaterical stage element in the conventional sense like lights, decor, etc. Yet, it is so full – of action, rather, a series of actions and situations which keep constantly dissolving into another. What are these actions for you, how do you devise them, and what is the logic of the transitions?
M.P: It’s important to notice that sans has been made in 2000. We started from very simple actions or states,for instance listening to the space, indicating and following a direction, singing, telling a story, imitating each other …
Among others things, we worked on sentiments as anger, fear, astonishment, deep sadness, joy … that generated a special way to be and to move, but without any psychology and mannerism.
All these actions are a way to create a relation between the dancers and deal with the theatrical codes. It means that we are on a stage in front of an audience, and we can invent unexpected situations.
I could say there’s not a logic, the issue was to pass from one state or situation to another, as directly as possible, without any preoccupation of the meaning, but with a particular attention to the rhythm, the space, the behaviour, the quality of the silence, looking for a gestural music, following my intuitions.
sans is also full of humor, without trying to be funny. What do you think makes it so? What is your relationship to humor in general?
Humour could come from the gap and from the distance we have with ourselves. I work with the fact to be a bit late, a bit next to, not completely at the expected moment and spot. We are on a stage, it’s not so grave, we are not afraid to be ridiculous, we are doing what we have to do, as serious as children are when they are playing. May be humour comes from the simplicity of what we do, the elementary physical aspect of the dancers, the vicinity of certain motives that the dancers cross during the piece with abrupt changes.
You mention in several interviews and texts that one of your sources of inspiration is play behaviours. What is the significance of playing for you and how do you appropriate playfulness into choreography?
Playing is finding the good distance.
…In the language of construction, the play indicates negligible space between two rigid elements. It also indicates the movement between the elements. The play is essential to connect two different materials because each matter reacts to the temperature, the movement in a different way. The play allows the relation, elasticity, the availability so that a structure exists in time. Not enough space, it is not a play. Too much space, it is not a play either…
For me it’s the same in the language of choreography. I appropriate playfulness into choreography by setting up a lot of rules that motivate all the movements. The dancers are so busy because they have a lot of constraints. They have to modulate their presence too.
What is choreography for you? What are the elements that constitute the choreographic? And, what are the greatest choreographic challenges — for you?
“choreography is :
a state of mind, a temporal arrangement, a translation, being here before being there, choosing, exploring different languages, going from one situation to another in a space where everything should be possible, listening to, looking at, made with persons, playing with obstacles, playing with paradoxes, playing with the present of past and future, playing with words, reacting to what surrounds us, risking to fail, setting up rules to hold together, starting from intentions, taking a step on side, with what a body can do, zigzagging …”
(I wrote this text for corpus, a web magazine)
The challenges are different according to the pieces. For instance, in Bande à part (2004), 6 dancers are making one solo, for Blink (2008) I tried to translate and materialize the first chapter of Matter and memory from Henry Bergson, or for Profit and loss (2009), the challenge was to be two choreographers and make one piece.
It’s a difficult question, strange words come in my mind as truth, honesty, it sounds a bit religious but I think challenges are related to an inner feeling
Your performances are always delightful. And, obviously, this could not have been possible without the very particular kind of performers you work with. How do you choose them? What are the criteria for casting?
I meet them more than I choose them.
It’s a question of meeting, I don’t like auditions.
I’m not looking for a special kind of dancers or personages.
Virtuosity is not a criteria, but it happens I work with very technical dancers.
One criteria would be not to be too self sure.
The main thing is to be involved all together in the same boat.
(Paris, 2009 September 11)