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Black Swan (2009)


Sylviane Dupuis, written during the rehearsals on the 28th of february 2009

The language-gesture of bodies

I tried to make use of a language-gesture [...] where logic gives way to the very rhythm of the images. C. F. Ramuz

If one starts to think, the legs come to a halt [...] There is nothing else to do except dance. And to dance as well as you can. Haruki Murakami

“Avoid what is predictable in the dance vocabulary as well as in the compositional structures”: this aesthetic postulate by Gilles Jobin is confirmed by each of his creations by distinguishing itself from the previous and by encouraging the audience “to break their habits”. One could say that this in itself is the subject of Black Swan; at any given moment, his new piece astonishes, surprises, branches off into an unexpected direction; and, paradoxically, it could also be that it initiates with this creator who is forever on the lookout, a renewed interest in pure choreography. Even if Gilles Jobin is a child of his times and does not duck any of the issues that dance has had to deal with in the course of the last years; he does not shut himself away in anything (not even his own “systems”) and moves forward, pushing the questioning into his material every time a bit further: the body, and its practice; but also the real world that does not cease to fluctuate, to have run-ins with itself, to make and break itself before our very eyes.

Taken from Karl Popper, the title of his newest creation evokes the improbable; in the sense that it takes the emergence of only one black swan (or the “impossible”) in the course of a series to modify our definition of a swan and, as a result, our rational approach to reality. It is enough to introduce a bit of “disturbing strangeness” or simply a discrepancy within a habit in order for our perception to change. This is what happens to a child who is discovering the world: everything surprises him, disorients him, increases or modifies his experience. And that is the strength of art – that Baudelaire saw as childhood recovered at will – to force us to undergo these journeys that will unsettle something in our mental categories or our view of the world.

In Black Swan, Gilles Jobin’s rallying cry will be just that, “to risk childhood”: its surprises, its games, something that the adult will rediscover later on beyond innocence. During the course of the first rehearsal that I attend end of February, one sees soft toys, little horses and marionettes side by side – marvellous objects of reminiscence, but also disturbing extensions of the human body on which they bestow animal qualities and subject to metamorphoses: transformed into a rabbit’s head at its end, where does the dancer’s arm start and where does it finish? “Don’t play with the rabbit, just move it” indicates Gilles Jobin; because then it is up to the audience’s imagination, to take hold of the proposition, to play with it in their turn, and to take it further... The choreographer gives the impulse, suggests a gesture, gives instructions, then leaves it up to the dancers; and suddenly throws a toy, and then another in the moving shape of intertwined bodies (like if one were to put a stick in an anthill) to see their reaction. From this randomness emerges the troubling image of these human shapes mixed with animal shapes and rolling in a jumbled mass, like returned to primordial indifferentiation...

At the opposite end of this chaos is the first movement of the choreography, every detail choreographed, evoking a sense of pure refinement: a single woman, then two, let unfold under our gaze an uninterrupted calligraphy of gestures that sometimes borrows from the arabesques of classical dance, sometimes it suggests the art of kabuki or oriental dance, and sometimes it splinters or breaks apart only to resurge more vigorously. Then a male body joins them – but instead of (like one might have expected) carrying the female dancer or becoming her partner, he lets himself be manipulated by her, become pure object, or marionette, or still yet – wrapped up in a blanket thrown in his direction – pebble, rock, mountain... Reminiscent of these strange rocks that look like they are moving, that seem to float on the striped gravel of Japanese gardens, suspended between nature and culture, or illusion.

Moreover, in order for the poem to come about, for Gilles Jobin, it is neither about building or inventing a story, nor about illustrating an idea, but, guided by intuition, to follow a line of thought through up to the point of exhausting a movement or an idea, without knowing upfront where it will lead or what it means. The meaning: it is the gesture itself, and the sense of improbability that it brings to the fore.