After denouncing the dissonances of the human condition, Jean-Sébastien Lourdais has chosen to embrace the somatic approach. Les appuis imaginés, the newest creation by the performer-choreographer, is part of this quest for harmony and tenderness. In 2002, Lourdais founded his company Défaut de fabrication, a name that would later evolve into Fabrication Danse. Trained in his native France and UQAM, he has made his mark with dramatic and demanding works with strong social connotations (he collaborates with sociologist Marc Laplante), which have been successful from here to Europe. Later on, he put the foundation of his approach into question and decided to rethink and realize differently the concepts of balance, harmony and metamorphosis, which have always been meaningful to him.
He gives a new consciousness to his past work in order to transcend it. “I had serious injuries and my body couldn’t face the tension and pressure of the exaggerated competition in the field any longer,” he said. “Stage performance was naturally put into question next.” It was after this deep reflection that the adoptive Quebecer decided to focus on the body and mind-body balance, an approach to health and body that steers perception toward the body, as felt and experienced from the inside, a concept developed by dancer, movement researcher, and occupational therapist Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. “Whether I’m the only performer, as in Vers (2012), or collaborating with several other soloists, as in Le Milieu de nulle part (2014), I choose to create solos that emphasize the relationship between intimate tensions and those we encounter in the outside world,” the dancer analyzed fittingly.
Determined to expose the work of the body to the eyes of the public, Lourdais started exploring transmission and touch. How can one evoke the states of the body? The first result of this study was a noteworthy solo interpreted by Sophie Corriveau (Bleu – FTA 2018). Next came a duet inspired by the work of the minimalist body in one of his recent works designed with performer-creator Catherine Lalonde, Les appuis imaginés, which will be presented at Agora de la danse in late March. “The touch approach awakens the body’s awareness and interior physical sensations,” says the choreographer, who seeks a pure presence, not unlike what is taught in the practice of Zen. “Loving physical contact reveals the skin to be an interface, unleashing previously hidden physical, psychic, and sensory territories.” The stage markers are no longer crosses taped on the floor, but correspond to intimate standards – those of the felt body. “I don’t condition bodies, neither my own nor those of others. Catherine Lalonde and I have therefore worked hard to establish the references to be in harmony with the body of the other, guiding the subjects more than sharing them,” Lourdais explained.
The approach has proved successful: when they were together, whatever he felt, she felt. “Catherine was pregnant when the project was being developed, so we were in fact a trio since there was that awareness of another presence with us. We shared some very sweet, authentic, and simple moments.” Les appuis imaginés is a type of faux solo, a work Lourdais presents as a departure from his previous works. Tenderness and joy, words that aren’t used enough in dance, were the keywords in the exploration carried out with interpreter Lalonde and indispensable collaborators Marie-Stéphane Ledoux (artistic advisor and creation assistant), Ludovic Gayer (musical environment), and Jean Jauvin (lighting design). “We’re on the same wavelength,” he says. Les appuis imaginés is a true team effort that’s always evolving. The Brittany native is becoming more and more interested in visuals and music. How can one put them in dialogue and give them the tenderness of the intimate body? “I’m not looking for the final result, but rather moments of grace and, especially, how to share them,” he says. “That’s the challenge.
In creation, we think we’re speaking, we think we’re creating consciousness, but we’re in fact stuck in our little choreographic comfort zone. You need to have the courage to move past your frame of reference and say goodbye to the easy way out, open yourself up to the unknown.” “My family doesn’t understand dance, and I chose to leave, affirming and confirming dance as a life choice,” Lourdais confided. “Risking self-congratulation, today I’ve gotten to a point where I feel the need to shine on stage less and less.” The performer-choreographer no longer yearns to be spectacular, but to have the pleasure of sharing. He wants to capture something more fundamental to life. “I don’t want to force anything from now on,” he says. This state of surrender, which may be a part of the process, does him good. He wishes to express and accept it, as much for himself as for others, even if the exercise makes him feel extremely emotional and vulnerable. “I’m always dizzy, but my fragility is my strength, and it brings me a peace. It’s a surrender that makes me rediscover the joy of dance.”
Translated by Isabel Garriga
Les appuis imaginés, from March 25 to 28 at Agora de la danse. www.agoradanse.com