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Known for his inventive, philosophical and socially sharp performances, the French choreographer Boris Charmatz continually develops new forms of dance. After the huge success of enfant at the Holland Festival in 2012, he now returns with manger. Which is a simple concept, but nonetheless rich in the variety of its manifestations, ranging from a mundane act to one harbouring explicit sexual connotations and people eating themselves to death. Underneath all these forms, Charmatz has found his own basic form, which is geared towards the relation between the fingers and the mouth as well as to the voice. The essence of the movement arsenal he has developed for this project is in the act of making things disappear, in consuming. The result is a sensuous experience, a work that can be characterised as a moving installation.
Please note: standing room only
This will be the third time that the French choreographer and dancer Boris Charmatz (Chambéry, 1973) visits the Holland Festival, this time with manger (2014), a choreography for fourteen dancers about one of the most fundamental of human movements: eating. It's an everyday action which has rarely been approached from a choreographic standpoint.
Watching people eat is a strange form of aesthetic observation, according to Charmatz. 'It has an almost monstrous quality. Dance is virtually fixated on the ideal of a fragile, hovering body. A subject that at first glance is as ‘simple’ as it is rich in formal, conceptual possibilities. The result is a contradiction that I like a great deal. Eating is entirely unspectacular, an almost invisible process. At the same time, eating can also easily come across as demonstrative and symbolically charged: greedily devouring, spilling food all over oneself, stuffing oneself to death as in the film La grande bouffe, or eating a banana and emphasising the sexual connotations involved. At its core, manger is about making things disappear. The performance asks how we digest reality.’
Charmatz studied at the École de Danse in Paris and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Lyon. Since 2009, he is artistic director of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Rennes et de Bretagne, which he renamed Musée de la Danse – a 'museum in movement' as well as a research hub to explore new developments in dance. In his research, Charmatz has developed experimental forms of exhibition, such as expo zéro or 20 dancers for the XXth century. As a dancer, he has frequently improvised with the poet Saul Williams, saxophonist Archie Shepp, trumpet player Médéric Collignon and choreographer Steve Paxton, and most recently with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Tino Sehgal.
Charmatz is a radical innovator of dance, who in his own work explores the relationships between dance, art and philosophy. Subverting the expectations of his audience, he breaks with formal laws and routines of the theatre and expands the possibilities of the choreographic space. In his work, frequently one simple idea takes centre stage, serving as a framework for all movements, which are subsequently taken to the limit of their possibilities. 50 years of dance, which featured at the Holland Festival in 2010, was a fast-moving exploration of dance grandmaster Merce Cunningham's oeuvre. Levée des conflits (2010) consisted of 25 movements performed in canon by 24 dancers, eventually culminating in a dizzying tangle of bodies. In 2012 he raised some uncomfortable questions about the vulnerability of children and the complex relationship between man and machine, in enfant, a piece performed by 26 children, 9 adults, 1 musician and 3 machines.
Similar to enfant, in which adult performers dance with children, holding them in their arms, the food (white sheets) in manger serves as another kind of 'obstacle' which opens up new forms of movement. According to Charmatz, the stage is like a table, the food pulling you down to the ground. 'On top of that,' he says, ' the sheets we eat pose a curious, technical challenge, as they are sticky, you can choke on it and it can cut your lip.' The use of repetition in manger is similar to that in his earlier piece Levée des conflits. 'The mouth is seldom the starting point for dance movements,' Charmatz explains. 'But I love the relationship between the fingers and the mouth, it challenges me to create movements. The whole choreography revolves around the game between the hand, the food, the distance to the mouth and the voice. Maybe it will fuel new forms of eating, dancing and singing.'