rethinking choreography as moving pictures

Claire Lefèvre on COPROUDUCTION by César Vayssié
 
© Franz Jud
Claire Lefèvre on COPROUDUCTION by César Vayssié

A BMW 278 drives into „Hof 8“ of the Museumsquartier, hip French music blasting through the rolled down windows. The driver, film-maker César Vayssié, and his co-stars (Alix Eynaudi on the first evening followed by François Chaignaud the next day) park in front of the mumok building.

César steps out, and points to the car, directing the audience’s gaze towards the black vehicle. Whether Alix walks out casually, or François peels himself off the seat, through the open roof, into a headstand, Vayssié turns the focus onto the professional dancers. Gesturing towards them, he puts them on display, with the assurance of a car-salesman or perhaps the tenderness of a proud family member. At times he sits and becomes a viewer too, looking directly at his guests’ articulate bodies. Occasionally he copies their intricate movements, as if using his non-professional moving body as a scale with which to measure their virtuosity. Like a perfectly angled mirror, he always seems to position himself in a way to make our eyes bounce off of him and towards the other performer. But throughout this improvised duet, the protagonists slowly learn from one another, as if each dancer’s unique set of skills was rubbing off with every touch they share. Almost like mismatched stunt doubles, César absorbs Alix’s delicacy and François’ boldness, while they too, begin to juggle with planes and perspective.

The soundtrack to these ever succeeding moving images, dubs the performance with a carefully curated mix of theme songs, timely silences, classical ear-worms and political speeches: Audrey Hepburn meets Kendrick Lamar, Johann Strauss and Saul Williams. Unexpected juxtapositions layer the scenario: Jean-Luc Godard discusses the power of images while César hoists François over his head (slightly reminiscing of the infamous dirty dancing lift). Audre Lorde provides the voiceover as Alix and César contour each other in a dainty encounter. He bites softly into her calf. She sits on top of him. He lets out a struggling sigh. All the while “uses of the erotic” echoes in the background, like an invisible stream of subtitles to their every move.

Keeping this cinematic perspective on choreography gradually shapes the performative space and our experience as spectators: close-ups turn into panoramic shots as the performers shift from intimate hugs to racing off the frame. César’s attempts to copy François acrobatic prowess transform their duet into slapstick comedy. Alix flattens into a two-dimension cartoon character as she leans, hieroglyph-like, against the backdrop of grey concrete walls, and a lift becomes a cliffhanger, when François perilously carries César on his shoulders while balancing on frail stiletto thigh-high boots.

In this specific setting, the openness of the improvisation form, paired up with the fortuitous potential of public spaces allows for the everyday to become spectacular: The dancers scratch dust off the gravel floor into clouds of smoke, and a providential ray of sun perfectly captures the iridescence of François‘ lime green jacket as he crawls lusciously in the background.

Summer storms replace wind machines, the air dramatically knocking over bicycles and blowing up Alix’s silk shirt. A serendipitous helicopter roaring skywards, and the audience members magically morph into a bunch of extras on the set of the next apocalyptic blockbuster.

Both evenings follow a similar structure, as if COPROUDUCTION was an ever evolving remake, in which the guest’s role is constantly re-invented. And in this sense, César Vayssié’s performance project could also be seen as a series of biopics, or rather a softly focused collection of choreographic portraits.

 

Claire Lefèvre is a French choreographer and performer working in Vienna. She also teaches concept-writing to movers and makers and is a regular contributor to Springback Magazine. www.clairelefevre.com

 

 

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