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Choreographic Maneouvres

Balancing masterfully some circus tricks, dance and philosophy in his work Allege Clément Layes is one of youngest and brightest stars of this year’s iDANS. The artist presents his work on October 19th at 20:30 at Mimar Sinan Univesity Bomonti Campus Şebnem Selışık Aksan stage.  Appearing as down to earth as much as he is intelligent, Layes responded to Gurur Ertem’s questions.  

Gurur Ertem: In Allege, you create a self-referential universe to slowly reveal its internal logic. Is there an inherent criticism to some contemporary dance works that create opaque universes and hide behind their conceptual philosophisms?

Clément Layes: Well, not criticism, but maybe a sort of loving and sad humor concerning our human tendencies to make things complicated, but it doesn’t refer specifically to the dance field. Although it’s my background, and the place I know the best, I try not to refer to the dance world so I have a chance to reach not only the professional audience but to a larger group of people. For me it’s rather a kind of game. In the process to make this piece, with Jasna Vinovrski, we were dealing with systems of action, compulsive actions, and it seemed interesting to create a system that people would recognize, and then pretend to reveal its logic while unfolding another system of a different nature. It’s a game with attention and expectation.

What constitutes the labor of choreography for you?

Finding and creating my subjectivity, I mean trying to find where I can do something, which implies creating something new within me first. As dancers we have to deal with the fact that we trained for many years in schools repeating movement, it’s a good practice sometime, but how boring to see that over and over on stage. So putting myself at work. Also I believe we need a certain kind of mastery of something, a craft, but one of a nature that doesn’t depend on institutions to be built and transmitted, at least not only, one that we would make up for ourselves, and for the needs we have at this moment.  I wasn’t surprised when I read you’re topic of he year is “at work”, it seems to me to be highly actual, (the French revolutionary thinkers of the 60’s Raoul Vaneigem and Guy Debord were differentiating the work and the production, the production has lost the creative part wich work is always needing) now 50 years after, capitalism needs creativity in order to sustain its emptiness and its lack of horizons. I’m working with that. It’s not easy but it’s the only place I see.

To be demanding towards myself is the first way to be at work, a balance to find in between thinking and trying, contemplation and action. This demand is not one of force, I can’t make it happen, but I try to imagine the condition in which this could happen. Choreography, is complex because the movement we are inscribing in space are not anymore and not only movement of the external body, neither is space, the surrounding stage or room. Space and movement are the world as it is constituting our subjectivities, something in between us and the outside is what we are to sculpt, hopefully choreography brings more awareness to our relation with the world. So the work is one of looking and creating the space, (the subjective space I want to address my own but as well others), and the movement of attention I’ll need in order to reach this space. It’s a kind of psychic practice and I like this idea of Beuys to sculpt the social but it’s something that goes both ways. I see it as looking for a moment of intensity.

Also this demand starts with dealing with the condition I’m in. I also understand choreography today as a way to inquire the place and relation to the body in the society, and exactly not a way to expose the dreamed body of the society. Dance is by nature joyful, and I often hear: why don’t you dance? I miss dance, it’s beautiful… but that would mean nothing but entertainment, the “labor” as you put it is exactly to find why to do it, it can’t be just a repetition of something I have learnt that was called dance. In the case of Allege I also have to find why to do it again, choreography doesn’t stop with the premiere of the performance, to think how and why to continue is almost more difficult, and therefore very interesting. How to find each time a way to refresh the original idea and energy, and as well to let thing change, as I’m changing with the the things around me. When I see Chaplin in the Modern Times, or Tati’s Mon Oncle, it still hits me now, I have a real pleasure and joy to see him playing with the mechanics that constrain the producing bodies I find it still subversive. But now we are in a different situation, less clear maybe, the work is certainly to find out about the actual situation, and to deal with it. Finding a new place for the body to stand, but also what the body  can and for.

It seems that one important step in the “discovery” of your work was your participation in the most recent edition of the Aerowaves Dance Platform. After the platform, you have been invited to many festivals. What is your view about such EU supported networks and platforms?  What have been the advantages and disadvantages?

Two years ago I was performing work in progress of Allege in a old factory in Berlin, without light, for 10 people, without being paid. In two years things have changed a lot.  It’s really too soon to be critic concerning this, I’m still surprised how fast and unexpected all this was, two years ago I was trying to talk to a theater director and nobody would even answer because nobody knew me, and now I receive mail from Istanbul, Canada, all over EU, US, asking questions about the work…it’s surprising how this happened, it shows the importance of network and platform for young choreographer. I’m very happy with this so far, as I was saying before to continue a performance after the premier is the most difficult and this applies also with the market. Part of the work now is to see how this works, how to work with this and how the performance works in different places, with different audience, it is very interesting and inspiring.

What would be the ideal-typical work conditions for you?

Time. I dream of having time, working a year on one project… it never happens in dance, we are pushed to produce too much, in too little time, I want time, to read, to move, to have the feeling I have time. To not be pressed. Time with different kind of time, time of action, meeting, discussing, but that’s something I experience already a lot, what I miss is time to let things mature, slowly grow, I’m not a genius I need time so things of interest happens. This kind of time is usually not valued enough, and not recognized as valuable, and it’s a pity cause it works! I worked a long time on Allege, and, although I’ve been lucky to tour so much, in the same conditions it would not have happened with a piece I would have made in a month, because the value of a performance is not only the form, but mostly the depth, that’s what makes it that we can relay to it, form can be made fast but depth needs time.

And also I’d like to have the possibility to imagine and define the condition in which to work, there is something highly standardized in the dance studio and the residency system. In Berlin I work now in an artist atelier, I feel much more free, I’m not afraid to break the floor, or to make the walls dirty,  the dance studio has tendency to create a kind of hygienic nicely learnt type of dance, I think it’s a dance school heritage. But it’s nice to sometime use it.

At the same time it’s interesting to deal with the things how they are, that’s how “allege” was made, now in the next step, even if I have more possibilities, it’s still complex, at last the ideal condition are not existing, we can only work for it, and that’s already a good beginning.

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