Version classiqueVersion mobile

On Reenactment: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools

 | 
Cristina Baldacci
, 
Susanne Franco

Solos

Five Conceptual Actions for a Sensitive Archaeology of the Gesture in Dominique Brun’s Sacre#2

Aurore Després
Traduction de Ariadne Mikou

Texte intégral

  • 1 Aurore Després, “Archéologie sensible des gestes. Palimpseste de la danse de l’élue dans le Sacre (...)

1This chapter aims to formulate five conceptual actions that I have implemented during my research1 by proposing a “sensitive archaeology of gestures” in the solo The Chosen One danced by Julie Salgues in Dominique Brun’s Sacre#2 (2014), a re-construction of Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring (1913). I aim to assert an epistemic position with respect to the relation to time for each of these conceptual actions. More specifically, my approach considers the gesture and its temporality not only as an object and as a concept, but also as a method.

Action n. 1: Thinking about Reconstruction and Invention at the Same Time

  • 2 Isabelle Launay, Poétiques et politiques des répertoires. Les danses d’après, 1 (Pantin: Centre Na (...)
  • 3 Mark Franko, “Introduction: the power of recall in a post-ephemeral era” in The Oxford Handbook of (...)

2The first action focuses on the importance for methodologies of reenactment to consider reconstruction and invention simultaneously. In the vast field of strategies based on re-doing, Isabelle Launay suggests considering the “projects seeking the old in the new that they reconstruct” as re-constructions and the “projects turned towards the present, seeking the new in the old that they activate” as reinventions.2 Mark Franko considers reenactment in the contemporary post-ephemeral era as a critical, if not polemical, approach in that it reveals active and creative historicity in the present, troubling the past as well as the present, in contrast to re-construction, which, like a “museum performance”, seeks to go back to the past as a frozen time.3 By looking at Sacre#2 by Dominique Brun, I explore to what extent the dichotomy between re-construction and re-invention leads to misunderstanding and confusion. This “historical re-construction”, conceived in a properly excessive manner as a re-invention both by its creative methodology and by its performance devices, is blurring this opposition. Brun affirms:

  • 4 Dominique Brun, Sophie Jacotot, Juan Ignacio Vallejos, Rapport DZIGA autour du Sacre du printemps (...)

The challenge consists in renewing the modernity of the Rite, working to break free from the phantasm of authenticity and cracking down on the discourse of reconstruction in dance. It will not be a question of finding again the dance of 1913, rather of inventing another dance, one that is nevertheless stowed in the historical moment of the emergence of Nijinsky’s dance.4

  • 5 Millicent Hodson, Nijinsky’s Crime Against Grace. Reconstruction Score of the Original Choreograph (...)
  • 6 Patrizia Veroli, “Il Sacre du printemps di Nižinskij, oggi” in Cento Primavere. Ferocità e feraci (...)
  • 7 It is worth noting that the Paris Opera Ballet, in “agreement with the Vaslav and Romola Nijinsky (...)

3In contrast to the Joffrey Ballet version of 1987,5 Brun’s approach lines up with contemporary historical epistemology as an action on the past operated by the “critical interpretation” of the documents relating to Rite in the present.6 This approach suggests a new methodology or episteme which uses archives and documents relating to the stage in a field where nearly three hundred re-readings generally abound as choreographic re-constructions.7 Based on what have been called “archive constraints”, the writing of Sacre#2 is literally in-formed by archives and, at the same time, the very concern of Brun is how to per-form them so as to trans-form them in the present time.

4Broadly speaking, can we conceive of a way of being in time as a contradictory epistemic position that, on the one hand encompassess the present, the ephemeral, the non-repetitive and the invention of the gesture and, on the other hand, a way of not disappearing, repetitiveness, circulation and propagation in space and time? How can we hold these apparent opposites together through our method? Isn’t the gesture itself constantly reconstituted by reinventing itself? Thus, this “sensitive archaeology of gestures” developed during the ten minutes of The Chosen One’s solo in Sacre#2 formulates a radical epistemic position, according to the following second conceptual action.

Action n. 2: Radically Placing the Present of the Gesture at the Origin

  • 8 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 1998): 45.
  • 9 Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History, in Selected Writings, vol. 4, ed. Howard Eiland and Mi (...)
  • 10 Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (Princeton: Princ (...)
  • 11 Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi (...)
  • 12 Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (London/New York: Routledge (...)

5At the beginning of any methodology linked to reenactment, the “archaeological” question seems to be significant: where do we situate the starting point of the approach or its “origin”? Where do we place the arkhe, the beginning or the commandment of things? In the past? In the present? Or, as Walter Benjamin put it, in a “whirlpool in the river of becoming”?8 Whatever the answers provided by the artistic forms and processes themselves, I believe that our methodologies should address and take a stand on these epistemic questions themselves. For this reason, Benjamin’s concept of history,9 Henri Bergson’s theory of memory,10 Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts on oblivion11 and Michel Foucault’s archeology of discourses12 seem inescapable. Nevertheless, it seems that we should still tune our methodologies to the specificities of our “objects”: namely gestures, movements, actions, acts and performances. The question is how to conceive the gesture as a real concept, highlighting its temporality.

6When Benjamin invokes the “origin”, “knowledge of the past” or the “dialectical image” by describing a thick and swirling temporality, the gesture and its temporality are evoked without being directly conceptualised. Opposing the established view on the role of the historian as advocated by Leopold von Ranke, Benjamin states:

  • 13 Walter Benjamin, Écrits français “Sur le concept d’histoire” (Paris : NRF, Gallimard, 1991): 342.

Following Ranke, the task of the historian is “to describe the past as it was”. It is an entirely chimerical definition. The knowledge of the past would rather resemble the act by which a man at a moment of a sudden danger offers himself a memory that saves him.13

7In addition to situating the past as a construction of the present, this quotation establishes knowledge of the past in the event of a gesture. However, it should be noted that it seems to be less a gesture as such that “saves” this man, than the “memory” that comes to him. And here we come to the crucial pragmatic and epistemic series of questions: What does save this man? A “souvenir”? An “act”? And what do we place at the origin of knowledge? A gesture? Or an image-souvenir?

  • 14 Aurore Després, “Refaire. Showing re-doing. Logique des corps-temps dans la danse-performance”, in (...)
  • 15 André Lepecki, “The body as archive: will to re-enact and the afterlifes of dance”, Dance Research (...)
  • 16 Marina Nordera and Susanne Franco, Ricordanze: Memoria in movimento e coreografie della storia (Mi (...)
  • 17 Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge MA: Harvard (...)
  • 18 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, 45.

8This is a double epistemological problem that any historical or archaeological approach to gestures must confront. On the one hand, the ephemeral nature of the gesture makes it the epistemological obstacle par excellence, the one that science has bypassed since its birth in metaphysics. On the other hand, there is the tenacious idea that memory, duration and knowledge of the past would only be a matter of souvenirs, images, reminiscences or thoughts swirling in time, and not gestures – since they cannot last. In the common or scientific understanding of memory, the gesture, faced with the primacy of the image, seems completely absent. Hence, difficulty arises when dancers, choreographers and dance theorists try to conceptualise the “memory of the body and gestures”, the “body-time”,14 the “gestural archives” or the “body-archive”.15 As Marina Nordera and Susanne Franco observe: “in dance, memory is always active”.16 It is, therefore, first and foremost from “the act” or “gesture” that the swirling temporality springs forth, and for this reason, I suggest three assumptions. First, gesture is a fleeting phenomenon generated in the present by making the past and the future swirl together. Through this lens, gesture would come next to replace Benjamin’s “dialectical image”, where “the image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation”.17 Finally, one would consider gesture at the very place of the “origin” and as the “authority”, so that it appears as this “whirlpool in the river of becoming”.18 In doing so, one would consider the present as the “unknowable”, even though one may like to get as close as possible. Thus, “starting from gesture” is the bedrock of our approach.

9However, to start from the gesture and its present means to start from the gestural experience itself. Our archaeology of the solo of The Chosen One has the methodical, even systematic specificity, of engaging with the words of the dancer Julie Salgues regarding her gestures. That means, first of all, understanding the gestures through her words and what she shares about her experiences, her perceptions, her knowledge and her discoveries. This starting point operates within many epistemological reversals: it poses the primacy of practices, experiences, interpretations rather than artistic works, forms or compositions; it highlights the primacy of gestures rather than images, documents or archives themselves; it suggests the primacy of a whirlwind of current events constantly re-launched in the present rather than a fixed and linear original past and it reveals the primacy of details rather than a general idea in space and time. This series of reversals contrasts with the traditional assumption that the past, the works, forms, compositions, generalisations, and chronologies are at the “beginning” and are the “authority” of the epistemology of Western arts and sciences. These intricate epistemological reversals have not ceased to torment my process. It is then a matter of entering the whirlwinds of time as in the Heraclite river, even at the risk of swallowing water.

Action n. 3: Starting from the “Carrier of the Gesture” and Opening Whirling Gestospheres

  • 19 James J. Gibson and Ann D. Pick, An Ecological Approach to Perceptual Learning and Development (Ox (...)
  • 20 Etymology of “gesture”: “early 15th century, “manner of carrying the body”, from Medieval Latin ge (...)
  • 21 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian (...)
  • 22 Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge.
  • 23 Aurore Després, “Archéologie sensible des gestes”.
  • 24 In this chapter, Julie’s words will be entered in single quotation marks without repeating the ass (...)

10This approach opens up a whole range of questions about the sensitive experience of a single gesture: not exactly “where does your gesture come from?” as if we were digging into the past, but rather, from a pragmatic and ecological perspective of bodies and gestures:19 “How is it done and what carries it?”, “what is it carried by?”. By returning to the etymology of the word gesture (based on the act of “carrying”)20, I started asking Salgues questions about each of the gestures in the solo The Chosen One: what do you rely on to feed your gesture, what are your “supports”, that is all cultural, artistic, archival material which inspire and underpin your interpretation of the solo? What relations does the act of carrying the gesture realise? In this way, I aimed to activate her quasi-spontaneous “short-term memory” as defined by Deleuze and Guattari: one that functions by ruptures, gaps, discontinuities and multiplicities like a “nervous, temporal and collective rhizome”, one that “includes forgetting as a process”21 to activate an “archaeology of surfaces”.22 A “short-term memory” that, as with the impulse of an action, lets things come to the surface to be picked at random. From February 2017 to January 2019, while Sacre#2 was on tour, I conducted 20 days of interviews with Salgues, sometimes together with the graphic artist Mary Chebbah. We set up sound recordings (the Audio Diary) that the dancer completed at the end of each performance; we also collected rehearsal notes. I then decided to make visible (by writing in grey) in my text23 all Sangues’ words.24 In doing so, we have created a sort of “archaeological record” for each sequence and each gesture and, in this way, a bundle of “supports” appeared for each gesture. First there are the “supports” relating to the archives of The Rite of Spring and re-filtered by the dancer – such as the 12 drawings by Valentine Hugo from which the solo is almost exclusively composed (fig.1). Then there are the “supports” linked to Salgues’ long career as a performer with Brun since 2004. Finally there is a multiplicity of other “supports” linked to the dancer’s own approach, her career as a performer with other choreographers, her personal history and memory: this is the documentation of the intimate score of the performer, something the choreographer may be completely unaware of.

11Here I would only mention a few examples of words, images, gestures, objects that support Salgues when she performs the solo in its kinaesthetic accuracy:

  • the fragility “of a little thing in the centre of the stage” like in Nijinski’s Petrouchka;25
  • the immobility of the “already dead” in Jean Genet’s Tightrope Walker;26
  • the ‘backstage wall’ into which she says she ‘disappears’;
  • the joy of ‘practicing death’ choreographer Deborah Hay speaks of;27
  • this “movement that doesn’t leave”28 by Jacques Rivière (1913);
  • a fire chakra called Manipura worked on with choreographer Myriam Gourfink;
  • the ‘constraint’ of the twisting “serpentine” of the Faune in her body worked on with Brun (2017);
  • the “articulate body logic”29 by Guillemette Bolens;
  • a “young tree caught in the wind”30 annotated by Hugo;
  • the power to grasp the “violence” of the Amazons who surround her like those of the “forces of separation”31 cherished by Valère Novarina;
  • an ‘improvisation’ in the manner of the choreographer Nathalie Collantès with whom Salgues has worked extensively;
  • Tolstoy’s Resurrection;32
  • the ‘smile’ of Madeleine in the desert by Eugène Delacroix which caught Salgues’ attention during a visit to the Louvre Museum;
  • or “the dance of an insect, a hind fascinated by a Boa, a factory explosion”,33 words by Jean Cocteau, coming to Salgues’ mind as a major “support” for her whole dance.
  • 34 “Gestopshère du solo de l’Élue. Julie Salgues, 2017-2018 in Sacre#2 (2014) de D. Brun” in Aurore D (...)
  • 35 “The image of the inverted cone occurs twice in the third chapter of Matter and Memory”. The image (...)

12In what I call the “gestosphere”34 of Salgues in the solo of The Chosen One, all of her “supports” have been brought together. The idea of the gestosphere is inspired by Bergson’s inverted “memory cone” in that it connects the present “movement” at its tip, to the flare of virtual “memory”35 at its base. From the “supports” for the most vivid gestures (below) to the most floating supports (top), heterogeneous entities of various kinds are woven together. In establishing a relation between the gestures and their “supports”, it was surprising to note that the lively supports that constantly come to Salgues for this solo are not Hugo’s 12 drawings as one might expect (fig. 1), but rather the “lines of force” that Salgues draws like a sort of diagram for each of them (fig. 2).

Fig. 1. Mary Chebbah (2019), VH series from the drawings of Valentine Hugo (VH0>VH11)

Fig. 1. Mary Chebbah (2019), VH series from the drawings of Valentine Hugo (VH0>VH11)

Fig. 2. Mary Chebbah (2017), Lines of internal forces (VH0>VH11)

Fig. 2. Mary Chebbah (2017), Lines of internal forces (VH0>VH11)

13In fact, Salgues has translated, converted, absorbed and condensed into kinaesthetic precision these 12 drawings, like all the other “supports”, in her gestures.

14Salgues says about them:

I don’t see these postures as silhouettes at all. Valentine Hugo’s 12 drawings are made of many contours, and for me, these lines, and strokes represent the relationship to space and forces. These “lines of force” are like a kind of densification of the essential constraints determined in each drawing.

15For each of the postures, we then decided to superimpose in a single image Hugo’s drawings, with their rather outdated swirls, with the negatives of Julie’s photos in the studio, which appear like x-rays, and the directional lines of dynamics that Salgues drew (fig. 3 for the so-called VH1 posture). These are somewhat flat, photographic palimpsests, which seemed strange to us. Can the palimpsest of a gesture – as we will discuss next – come from such stratified, successive, coherent or chronological layers? To make a gesture, must we not condense, as Salgues suggests, all that in-forms it into a swirl?

Fig. 3. Mary Chebbah (2017), Lines of superimposed vectors (left) and Lines of directional vectors (right) (VH1)

Fig. 3. Mary Chebbah (2017), Lines of superimposed vectors (left) and Lines of directional vectors (right) (VH1)

Action n. 4: Conceiving the Duration of Gestures in Large Hypergestural Regions

  • 36 Susanne Franco, “Retracer une subjectivité dansante, repenser une histoire incorporée”, Recherches (...)
  • 37 Maurice Halbwacks, On Collective Memory, trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago/London: The University of (...)

16We should now formulate what appears to be a necessary condition for our methodologies linked to reenactment: taking into account the materiality and duration of gestures, despite their factual evanescence. If we believe that gestures last in some ways, how then can we establish their duration? Or is it enough to just “describe” this “form of archive”, as Susanne Franco suggests?36 What would be the form of the gestural archive in its own specific modality of existence? The notions of “memory of the body” and “body-archives” seem to be too closely linked to an individual “body” in the present, rather than to the “vast and complex mass” (collective, intergestural, supra-individual) described by Maurice Halbwachs37 as memory and by Michel Foucault as discourse.

  • 38 Richard Schechner, “Restoration of Behavior”, Studies in Visual Communication 7, no.3 (1981): 2-45 (...)
  • 39 Ibid.

17Between temporal and material issues, should we consider using the filmic metaphor, as Richard Schechner invites us to, thus creating some kind of “strips of behavior”38 that the performer would restore? Or to use the theatrical or architectural metaphor of the habit or the habitat, such as the costume, which the performer would enter? Or the concept of “embodiment” as the incarnation of images or thoughts in a body? As Schechner insists, we should instigate forms of gestural archives that “are independent of the causal systems (social, psychological, technological) that brought them into existence: they have a life of their own”. They are the sorts of gestures that “exist separately from the performers who ‘do’ these behaviors”, so that these behaviours can then be “stored, transmitted, manipulated, transformed”.39

  • 40 Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Sean Hand (London/New York: Continuum, 2006 [1988]): 37.
  • 41 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 161.
  • 42 Gilles Châtelet, Figuring Space, Philosophic, Mathematics, and Physics, trans. Robert Shore and Mu (...)

18In this sense, the assertion by Deleuze about Foucault’s “diagrammatic thinking” could be the starting point for a method based on the idea that “the history of forms, the archive, is doubled by an evolution of forces, the diagram”.40 According to Deleuze and Guattari, a diagram is made of “a semiotically unformed matter in relation to physically unformed matter” and it is composed of “particles-signs that are no longer formalised but instead constitute unformed traits capable of combining with one another”.41 Furthermore, if the mathematician and philosopher Gilles Châtelet writes that “the virtual demands gesture”,42 we can also reciprocally affirm that the gesture demands the virtual.

  • 43 Rudolf Laban, Choreutics, ed. Lisa Ullman (London: Dance Books, 2011 [1966]).
  • 44 Alain Berthoz, Simplexity. Simplifying Principles for a Complex World, trans. Giselle Weiss (New H (...)
  • 45 For a case study about the “hypergestural dance” of the dancer and choreographer François Chaignau (...)

19If the gesture should be understood in its actual and real dimension of given materiality, topology and ecology in the spatial and rhythmic dynamic of a body living in an environment (as suggested by Laban)43, then every gesture contains in itself some dimensions of space-time-matter composed of invisible, unformed, virtual and complex gestural particles that I call “gestural beings”. Therefore, my work advocates for a certain modality of the existence of multiple and heterogeneous entities that would live in a floating state in the present, as traces of gestures and as potential, tacit or latent germs for other gestures. By contracting and actualising themselves in a “simplex”44 way in the present, in a sort of instantaneous yet durational, singular yet collective precipitate, a complex gesture would always be an event, a trace of gestures and a germ for other gestures. By transposing the notions of intertextuality or hypertextuality, these gestures-as-particles, gestures-as-dust or gestures-as-foam draw vast, invisible, hypergestural spheres: the “gestospheres”. The gestural “mass” or “archive form” is thus an actual-virtual, topical-heterotopical, chronic-anachronic, whirling, multiple, chaotic and mutational ensemble. In other words, gestures do circulate and propagate constantly in turbulent chains of interpretations and reinterpretations.45

20The “gestosphere” of Sacre#2, developed from documents and interviews with Brun, shows thousands of swirling documents. Rather than closed lists (alphabetical or chronological), each “cloud” of documents (close or far in space and time) contains thousands of gestural particles (spatial, temporal, rhythmic, tonic, pneumatic) that can be related to others in the making of gestures. For example, the “gravity posture” – a bent, compact, pigeon-toed posture titled Sacre’s Body by Brun that presides over all the gestures of Sacre#2 – is constructed in the forest of signs of various gestural particles resulting from:

  • the value given to the mention by Marie Rambert, Nijinsky’s assistant, of the existence of a “basic position”46 in The Rite of Spring;
  • the failure of all the testimonies and all the criticisms to invoke a “primitive” posture in various metaphors, linked to the “prehistoric”, the “animal”, the “old man”, the “puppet”;47
  • three photographs by Charles Gerschel (1913), drawings and paintings by Valentine Hugo, Emmanuel Barcet, Nicolas Roerich between 1905 and 1913, that show these folded bodies, pressed and packed like sardines;
  • the selection by Brun of paintings that Nijinsky could have seen at the Louvre such as Les Haleurs de la Volga by Ilya Répine (1873) or Pauvre Pêcheur by Puvis de Chavanne (1881);
  • the choice of excerpts from the film A Sixth Part of the World (1921) by Dziga Vertov that presents scenes of daily work in the vast peasant Russia of the 1920s, such as the “kisses to the earth” that were reenacted for The Old Sage of Sacre#2 or, more astonishingly, a woman washing and wringing a cloth with her feet, copied for The Old Witch’s gestures (fig. 4);
  • and, most importantly, the practice of Irene Dowd’s “constructive rest position”48 to, as Brun explains, “import things without too much force, from below”. As for The Afternoon of a Faun, “we had to invent a body that is not ours” and “to push ourselves to experience a form of otherness of the body”.49

Fig. 4. Mary Chebbah (2019), Body sacral-matrix or body at work

Fig. 4. Mary Chebbah (2019), Body sacral-matrix or body at work
  • 50 Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jeschke, Nijinsky’s Faune Restored: A Study of Vaslav Nijinsky’s (...)
  • 51 Dominique Brun, Le Faune un film, ou la fabrique de l’archive. DVD (Paris: Centre National de Docu (...)

21More broadly, let us emphasise the importance, in Sacre#2’s gestophere of the 1991 translation in Labanotation of Nijinsky’s self-written score of The Afternoon of a Faun (1912) by Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jenschke.50 Labanotator herself, Brun has been doing a “reading”51 of this piece since 2007 and she considers this document essential for understanding Nijinsky’s compositional modes. Thus, The Afternoon of a Faun infiltrates all the inventive reconstructions of The Rite of Spring, according to Brun. We should also note Brun’s bedside book La Danse Grecque antique d’après les monuments figurés d’Euripide à Debussy (1896) by Maurice Emmanuel; the theatrical and choral play Le Sacre du Printemps that Sébastien Voirol wrote in 1913 in homage to its authors, which was discovered by Brun’s team. We also found that the atmosphere portrayed in The Waves by Virginia Woolf inspired SF-Sacre Fac-similé (2011), the first draft in the creation process of Sacre #197 (2013), variation around The Chosen One by Brun. Other parts of Sacre#2’s gestophere include Robert Craft’s writings on the relationship between dance and music in The Rite of Spring. Last but not least major “supports” of Sacre#2, according to Brun, are the performers.

22However, let us consider how this gestosphere’s diagram, which contains numerous elements, suggests gestural micro-particles, as well as their rhizomatic relationships, and yet says nothing about them. For this reason, the last action considered here consists of unfolding specific gestural palimpsests and making sense of them.

Action n. 5: Unfolding-Condensing Gestural Palimpsests

23Recently, the notion of “palimpsest” has been sporadically used in the scholarship on reenactment. From my perspective, I consider to what extent the gesture emerges from what the archaeologist Geoff Bailey calls a “true palimpsest”:

  • 52 Geoff Bailey, “Time Perspectives, Palimpsests and the Archaeology of Time”, Journal of Anthropolog (...)

True palimpsests are palimpsests in the strict sense of the term in which all traces of earlier activity have been removed except from the most recent. […] The definition of a true palimpsest, then, is a sequence of depositional episodes in which successive layers of activity are superimposed on preceding ones in such a way as to remove all or most of the evidence of the preceding activity.52

  • 53 Charles Baudelaire, “Le Palimpseste” in Les Paradis artificiels, Œuvres complètes de Charles Baude (...)

24The gesture conceived as a true palimpsest, as a process of erasing and forgetting even how it was generated, is less chronological than anachronistic, less successive than simultaneous. Its main feature is to appear unlayered, in a state that we could see as whirling. Just as in Baudelaire’s “palimpsest”, which “carries, superimposed one on the other, a Greek tragedy, a monastic legend and a chivalric tale”, any palimpsest of gesture is like “a fantastic, grotesque chaos, a collision between heterogeneous elements”.53

25Unfolding a gestural palimpsest, then, necessitates starting from the disappearance of the traces observed in the actual gesture to reveal their appearance in a virtual time. It also means releasing the gestures in duration and loosening the mesh of the gestural textures to reveal the spacing in the weave; to make visible the threads that link the gestural particles and their contiguity (of forms, rhythms, tonicity), or their gaps. In doing so, unfolding a palimpsest from a gesture, a sequence, or the entire piece amounts to properly making a gesture from which the one who makes or repeats it (dancer, choreographer, researcher or graphic artist) cannot escape. Thus, everyone makes sense of the palimpsest by reconstructing the gestures in the present.

26Following the principles of my method (“starting from the gesture” and “unfolding its palimpsest”), in the ten minutes of the dance of The Chosen One, I developed seven palimpsests of the seven sequences defined by Salgues as “regimes of gestures”. To work on the spacings as well as the gaps between them, I have unfolded each of them in three stages. The first one concerns the lively and floating supports that the dancer assembles in a very precise way (“Supports”). The second examines the bundle of archives, documents, testimonies and press reviews of the 1913’s The Rite of Spring or other documents used by the choreographer in her writing gesture (“Archival halo”). The third considers my thinking as a scholar in the present, which echoes, resonates, bounces, jumps in hypergestuality and conceives the aesthetic, political, ethical and ecological urgency of The Chosen One that is caught up in the spectacle of a human sacrifice for “spring” in the contemporary era (“Conversations, Reflections or Fragments in hypergestural regions”). I combine a kinaesthetic, sensitive and poetic micro-analysis with a philosophical and anthropological macro-analysis of the gestures in each palimpsest.

27Throughout these seven palimpsests, the most unsettling thing I noted was that the dance of Julie Salgues as The Chosen One had crucially supported my epistemological journey. Surrounded and sustained by the members of her community, Salgues as The Chosen One is at the centre of the stage, facing the audience who knows that she will be “sacrificed” and die. The dice are thrown but everything seems to be “at stake” again: How to dance here and now the last gestures, to make them the first of another time that was also called “spring”? How can we accept that this time should stop, in order to continue? How to hold together the passing and the actuality of time? How to break out from winter’s order and authority as we escape from the past? How to invent a movement from the archives as well as from still images? How could this woman, surrounded by ancestors and petrified by “archive-constraints”, perform them in the last minutes? Will she be able to invent another archaeological and atmospheric regime as another form of life by using a single gesture?

  • 54 Aurore Després, “Le printemps à la portée des gestes. Danser le solo de l’élue dans Le Sacre du pr (...)

28In addition to the atmospheric question,54 other archaeological questions about time, the archive, the still image and death intertwine here. Salgues as The Chosen One is “the one” who, in Sacre#2, brings the following choreographic actions to their paroxysm:

  • freezing in a “position” and in the immobility cherished by Nijinsky, to return to the “still images” in order to experience their sensitive duration. In the “position of The Chosen One”, Salgues enters the depths of time until she is “already dead” and “disappears” (“Palimpsest #0. The Stillness-The Disappearance”)
  • juxtaposing positions, pressing them together like in a bad flip-book (“Palimpsest #1. Composite 1”), moving them, making them running and rotating (“Palimpsest #2. Substances 1”), and, in these infernal machineries, perhaps inventing another energy or other flows (“Palimpsest #4. Substances 2”)
  • shaking a position until the figure “spits out” (as Brun defines it) (“Palimpsest #5. Composite 2”)
  • distorting the forms in the “violence” of a woman who allows herself to transform them (“Palimpsest #3. The Improvisation-The distortion”)
  • and, above all, blowing up the images. The 35 breath-taking jumps of the final sequence (“Palimpsest #6. Jumps”) end with this last gesture: a “smile” by Salgues as The Chosen One that would be the first of another time, the “first time” here named “printemps (springtime)”.
  • 55 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, 45.

29In this “precipitate of life” that Salgues as The Chosen One invokes as “her pleasure to dance before she dies”, we are at the heart of an archaeological regime that gives primacy to the gesture (vibrant, varying, mutant) in an infinite present, at the very birth of the gesture, as well as in a “whirlpool of the river of becoming”.55 To all previous questions, Brun and Salgues answer precisely with the primacy of the gesture and the importance of its birth in the present itself.

30Each of the five actions corresponded to those of the choreographic and performance process carried to their excesses by Salgues as The Chosen One in Sacre#2. In this coming together of our reenactment methodologies, Salgues, Brun and I have not stopped swirling and feasting together in an attempt to invent another time, in view of a multi-layered urgency that resonates with our era. Before publishing these palimpsests in their full meanings and contents, we hope that the presentation and explication of our tools and methodologies of this “sensitive archaeology of gestures” in the current book will support their fuller, more fruitful, understanding.

Fig. 5. Mary Chebbah (2018), Distortion of composite 1 or landslide

Fig. 5. Mary Chebbah (2018), Distortion of composite 1 or landslide

Notes

1 Aurore Després, “Archéologie sensible des gestes. Palimpseste de la danse de l’élue dans le Sacre du Printemps au XXIe siècle” (unpublished “Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches”, Université Côte d’Azur, 2019).

2 Isabelle Launay, Poétiques et politiques des répertoires. Les danses d’après, 1 (Pantin: Centre National de la Danse, 2017): 22-23. See also Isabelle Launay, Cultures de l’oubli et citation, Les danses d’après, II (Pantin: Centre National de la Danse, 2018).

3 Mark Franko, “Introduction: the power of recall in a post-ephemeral era” in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Reenactment, ed. Mark Franko (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017): 1-14.

4 Dominique Brun, Sophie Jacotot, Juan Ignacio Vallejos, Rapport DZIGA autour du Sacre du printemps de Vaslav Nijinski. Rapport de recherche pour l’aide à la recherche et au patrimoine en danse 2010 (Pantin: Centre National de la Danse, 2012).

5 Millicent Hodson, Nijinsky’s Crime Against Grace. Reconstruction Score of the Original Choreography for Le Sacre du Printemps (New York: Pendragon Press, 1996).

6 Patrizia Veroli, “Il Sacre du printemps di Nižinskij, oggi” in Cento Primavere. Ferocità e feracità del Sacre du Printemps, ed. Nicoletta Betta and Marida Rizzuti (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’orso, 2014): 39-62.

7 It is worth noting that the Paris Opera Ballet, in “agreement with the Vaslav and Romola Nijinsky Foundation”, has decided to re-stage Le Sacre du Printemps based on the choreography of Sacre#2 by Dominique Brun with costumes and set design by Nicolas Roerich, and not the version by Hodson & Archer for Joffrey Ballet. This version was presented at the Palais Garnier from 29 November 2021 to 2 January 2022.

8 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 1998): 45.

9 Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History, in Selected Writings, vol. 4, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, trans. Edmund Jephcott et al. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

10 Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988).

11 Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

12 Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (London/New York: Routledge, 2002).

13 Walter Benjamin, Écrits français “Sur le concept d’histoire” (Paris : NRF, Gallimard, 1991): 342.

14 Aurore Després, “Refaire. Showing re-doing. Logique des corps-temps dans la danse-performance”, in Gestes en éclats. Art, danse et performance, ed. Aurore Després (Dijon: Les Presses du réel, 2016): 367-390.

15 André Lepecki, “The body as archive: will to re-enact and the afterlifes of dance”, Dance Research Journal, 42, no. 2 (2010): 28-48.

16 Marina Nordera and Susanne Franco, Ricordanze: Memoria in movimento e coreografie della storia (Milan, UTET Università, 2010): 17-35.

17 Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press / Boston: Belknap Press, 1999): 462.

18 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, 45.

19 James J. Gibson and Ann D. Pick, An Ecological Approach to Perceptual Learning and Development (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); James J. Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1986 [1979]).

20 Etymology of “gesture”: “early 15th century, “manner of carrying the body”, from Medieval Latin gestura “bearing, behaviour, mode of action”, from Latin gestus “gesture, carriage, posture”. Restricted sense of “a movement of the body or a part of it, intended to express a thought or feeling” is from 1550; figurative sense of “action undertaken in good will to express feeling” is from 1916, QUWORD 趣词 Word Origins Dictionary, https://www.quword.com/etym/s/gesture [link not available: 6/12/2022].

21 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London/New York: Continuum, 2004 [1987]): 17.

22 Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge.

23 Aurore Després, “Archéologie sensible des gestes”.

24 In this chapter, Julie’s words will be entered in single quotation marks without repeating the associated reference: Julie Salgues, Interviews with Aurore Després 2017-2019, Paris.

25 Julie Salgues refers exactly to that in this quote: “Yet in Petrouchka was the germ of the idea that first persuaded and finally conquered him [Nijinsky]. Stravinsky and Benois bid the spectators look into the half-human puppet’s piteous little soul. He is more interesting, more touching for what he is than for what he does. […] He touched his audience by what it felt about him rather than by what it merely saw him do. Why not, then, go forward to a ballet that should depend much more upon this static suggestion, a ballet that should not be full of dynamic emphasis, a ballet almost – to put an extreme case – without movement?” in H. T. Parker, Motion Arrested: Dance Reviews of H.T. Parker (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1982):127.

26 The text The Tightrope Walker by Jean Genet is a major reference for Julie Sangues’ dance, based mainly on this quote: “Make sure of dying before appearing, and that a dead man dances on the thread”. Jean Genet, “The Tightrope Walker” in Fragments of the Artwork, trans. Charlotte Mandell (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2003).

27 Deborah Hay writes: “When I am in the corpse pose I realize how much I hold onto life”, in Deborah Hay, My Body, the Buddhist (Middletown CT: Wesleyan Press, 2000): 3.

28 Jacques Rivière, “Le Sacre du printemps”, La Nouvelle Revue Française, n° 59 (1 November 1913).

29 Guillemette Bolens, La Logique du Corps articulaire. Les articulations du corps humain dans la littérature occidentale (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2000).

30 Valentine Hugo, “Notes de Valentine Gross-Hugo sur ses carnets de dessin”, in Brun (2012):100.

31 Valère Novarina, Une langue inconnue (Paris: Éditions Zoé, 2012): 19.

32 Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection, trans. Louise Maude (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1900).

33 Jean Cocteau, Le coq et l’Arlequin. Notes autour de la musique (Paris: Édition de la Sirène, 1918).

34 “Gestopshère du solo de l’Élue. Julie Salgues, 2017-2018 in Sacre#2 (2014) de D. Brun” in Aurore Després, “Archéologie sensible des gestes”, 123.

35 “The image of the inverted cone occurs twice in the third chapter of Matter and Memory”. The image of the cone is constructed with a plane and an inverted cone whose summit is inserted into the plane. The plane, “plane P”, as Bergson calls it, is the “plane of my actual representation of the universe”. The cone “SAB”, of course, is supposed to symbolize memory, specifically, the true memory or regressive memory. At the cone’s base, “AB”, we have unconscious memories, the oldest surviving memories, which come forward spontaneously, for example, in dreams. As we descend, we have an indefinite number of different regions of the past ordered by their distance or nearness to the present. The second cone image represents these different regions with horizontal lines trisecting the cone. At the summit of the cone, “S”, we have the image of my body which is concentrated into a point, into the present perception. The summit is inserted into the plane and thus the image of my body “participates in the plane” of my actual representation of the universe”. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory [1986] (Princeton: Princeton Unviversity Press, 1988): 152-162.

36 Susanne Franco, “Retracer une subjectivité dansante, repenser une histoire incorporée”, Recherches en danse no.7 (2019), http://journals.openedition.org/danse/2591 [accessed 21 April 2022].

37 Maurice Halbwacks, On Collective Memory, trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992).

38 Richard Schechner, “Restoration of Behavior”, Studies in Visual Communication 7, no.3 (1981): 2-45. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/svc/vol7/iss3/2 [accessed 21 April 2022].

39 Ibid.

40 Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Sean Hand (London/New York: Continuum, 2006 [1988]): 37.

41 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 161.

42 Gilles Châtelet, Figuring Space, Philosophic, Mathematics, and Physics, trans. Robert Shore and Muriel Zagha, preface Jean-Toussant Dessanti (Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000).

43 Rudolf Laban, Choreutics, ed. Lisa Ullman (London: Dance Books, 2011 [1966]).

44 Alain Berthoz, Simplexity. Simplifying Principles for a Complex World, trans. Giselle Weiss (New Haven: Yale University Press, Odile Jacob book, 2012).

45 For a case study about the “hypergestural dance” of the dancer and choreographer François Chaignaud see : Aurore Després, “Penser le voyage des gestes. François Chaignaud ou l’aventure d’une corporéité hypergestuelle”, Revue Skén&graphie, no. 6, Annales Littéraires de l’Université de Franche-Comté (2019), https://doi.org/10.4000/skenegraphie.2953 [accessed 7 May 2022].

46 Marie Rambert, “Music score of Le Sacre du Printemps (Igor Stravinsky), with choreographic notes” (London: Rambert Dance Company, 1967) in Brun (2012): 88.

47 Thus, in a characterised “primitivism”, the critics recount the “dances of savages, Caribbeans, Canaques” (Adolphe Boschot, L’Écho de Paris, 30 May 1913), the “types of moujiks” (Paul Souday, L’Éclair, 31 May 1913), the “caged beasts” (Maurice Touchard, La nouvelle Revue, 1 July 1913), the “prehistoric automatons...with instinctive reflexes” (Gustave De Pawlowski, Comoedia, 31 May 1913), whose movements resemble the “brutal games of children urged by small needs” (Gaston Carraud, La Liberté, 31 May 1913) or the “ape-like trembling of rickety, small, old people” (Maurice Touchard, La nouvelle Revue).

48 Irene Dowd, Taking Root to Fly. Articles on Functional Anatomy (New York: I. Dowd & Contact Editions, 2010 [1981].

49 Dominique Brun, 2006, “Le trait et le retrait” (Quant à la danse, n° 3, 2006): 37.

50 Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jeschke, Nijinsky’s Faune Restored: A Study of Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1915 Dance Score and his Dance Notation System (Philadelphia: Gordon and Breach, 1991).

51 Dominique Brun, Le Faune un film, ou la fabrique de l’archive. DVD (Paris: Centre National de Documentation Pédagogique, 2007).

52 Geoff Bailey, “Time Perspectives, Palimpsests and the Archaeology of Time”, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 26, no. 2 (2007): 203.

53 Charles Baudelaire, “Le Palimpseste” in Les Paradis artificiels, Œuvres complètes de Charles Baudelaire (Paris: Michel Lévy frères, 1869): 329.

54 Aurore Després, “Le printemps à la portée des gestes. Danser le solo de l’élue dans Le Sacre du printemps au XXIe siècle’ in “Staging Atmospheres: Theatre and the Atmospheric Turn - Volume 1 / Atmosphères en scène : le théâtre à l’ère du tournant atmosphérique - Volume 1”, Revue Ambiances , <http://journals.openedition.org/ambiances/3576> [accessed 21 April 2022].

55 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, 45.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Mary Chebbah (2019), VH series from the drawings of Valentine Hugo (VH0>VH11)
URL http://books.openedition.org/aaccademia/docannexe/image/12065/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 142k
Titre Fig. 2. Mary Chebbah (2017), Lines of internal forces (VH0>VH11)
URL http://books.openedition.org/aaccademia/docannexe/image/12065/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Fig. 3. Mary Chebbah (2017), Lines of superimposed vectors (left) and Lines of directional vectors (right) (VH1)
URL http://books.openedition.org/aaccademia/docannexe/image/12065/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Titre Fig. 4. Mary Chebbah (2019), Body sacral-matrix or body at work
URL http://books.openedition.org/aaccademia/docannexe/image/12065/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 79k
Titre Fig. 5. Mary Chebbah (2018), Distortion of composite 1 or landslide
URL http://books.openedition.org/aaccademia/docannexe/image/12065/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 90k

Auteur

Aurore Després is a lecturer supervising Higher Degree Research (HDR) projects in performing arts at the University of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, where she was responsible for the University Programme “Art, danse et performance” (2011-2014). She is an affiliated researcher at the ELLIADD Laboratory (EA 4661) and an associate member of the Laboratory of the Geste-Institut ACTE, Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne. In connection with her practice as a dancer and choreographer, her research focuses on gesture and its perception, time and the archive in contemporary choreographic art. Her approach to the study of dance is aesthetic, as well as ecological, archaeological and political. She has conceived the online audio-visual archive “FANA Danse & Arts Vivants”. Her recent publications include the edited volume Gestes en éclats, Art, danse et performance (2016).

Ariadne Mikou (Traducteur)

CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0

Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Lire

Open access

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search