The stage is a blank page for Marie Chouinard. Dancers appear clad in black, moving across the stage like ink curving into forms. Projected onto a screen behind the dancers is a form, a drawing of a movement. The dancers work their way into mimicking these images, each body twisting and arcing into the desired shape.
The show was inspired by a book of poetry and drawings by Henri Michaux, aptly titled Movements. Chouinard says that the “drawings are almost like ink spots, you can tell where there will be a shape or movement, two or three human beings together.” In her choreography, Chouinard translated these movements into dance, each drawing coalescing into performance. As the dance progresses, the viewer can see how the forms take shape through the bodies of the performers. Following the format of the book, the dancers go from black against a white background to the reverse, white against black. Michaux’s poetry is also incorporated into the performance, as dancers take a microphone and recite his poetry in the midst of the dance. The dance is accompanied by original music by Louis Dufort, an electroacoustic composer whose music lends an industrial edge to the performance.
Alongside this performance is another dance choreographed by Chouinard; Gymnopédies is based on three piano compositions of the same name by French composer Erik Satie. In this performance, each dancer takes turns playing one of the gymnopédies live on stage as the others dance in pairs. Chouinard says that she was interested in the form of the duet for this performance. “Although the ostensible subject… is the duo, love, the erotic, the real subject is perhaps unexpected, time, the dance itself.”
The two performances are paired together for their premiere in Pittsburgh. Chouinard says that the connecting thread for the two shows is that they are both based on works by others. Movements is inspired by the visual and textual cues of Henri Michaux’s book, and Gymnopédies was formed around the sound and shape of the musical compositions that lend their name to the show. Chouinard describes the pairing as like an exhibition by a painter of a set of paintings; the pieces are different but they retain the style of the artist behind the work.
Movements and Gymnopédies will premiere together at the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts on September 28, 2013 at 8pm at Byham Theater.
Originally posted September 3, 2013 by Emily O’Donnell on the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts Blog