Charmatz explores the limits of civilised behaviour

danse de nuit

Boris Charmatz, Musée de la danse

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Six dancers on a square in the city, in the open air. They are performing Boris Charmatz’ new piece, danse de nuit. Using minimal resources, they are dancing a brutal choreography. They also talk, including the words of an emergency doctor after the shooting at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Charmatz – his exceptional performances making him a Holland Festival favourite – is now exploring the limits of what is permissible behaviour. What do we do when we are confronted with brutal violence in our society? What chance does civilised behaviour have?


Background information

The French choreographer and dancer Boris Charmatz is returning to Holland Festival this year with danse de nuit, a free evening performance at the Anton de Komplein in South East Amsterdam. Under the light of the street lamps, six dancers present a raw 

choreography on the hard paving stones, in combination with a partially improvised, rapidly emitted stream of sounds and words. Sometimes comprehensible, other times not, like beatboxers without a sense of rhythm. While their bodies come together, they cover topical issues about the art of political cartoons, the massacre at the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo and the fear of terrorist attacks.

All-rounder Charmatz – besides dancer and choreographer, curator and artistic director at the Musée de la danse – uses his work to explore the relationship between dance, visual arts and theory. He tries to undermine the expectations of the audience and he enjoys breaking the prevailing rules of theatre in order to find new opportunities for dance. His work often revolves around a simple idea, which is used as a framework for all movements that result from it. An example of this is Levée des conflits (2010), a canon of 25 gestures that are repeated by 24 dancers like a maelstrom. Or manger, a radical 'sculpture of movement' based on three (almost incompatible) human actions: eating, moving and singing. During the Holland Festival 2015, manger was performed on the flat floor of the Zuiveringshal West, a bare industrial space without any seats. The performers moved about among the standing audience, and Charmatz fell in love with the possibilities of an open stage floor. In danse de nuit, he continues his work on this theme. 
Visually, Charmatz was inspired by Rembrandt's iconic Nachtwacht, the 17th-century vigilante who steps out of the dark into the light. Charmatz's new choreography aims to be just as unforced, but is not improvised. The austere movements are adapted to the specific public space, the influence of the audience, the weather and the energy of the city. Just like Rembrandt's militia and our present-day police officers who try to maintain order, dancers also have a role to play in public spaces, Charmatz explains, 'In the public sphere in France and Europe, we are pursued by unknown bodies. There's a sense of insecurity and danger. But I have the idea that artists as well as members of the public can discover new ways to come together in public spaces.'

danse de nuit is based around three main themes. The first revolves around determining the limits of the public space and what can and cannot be shown in public. As a second theme, the choreography uses the firmness of the ground. Thirdly, the use of the voice and text fragments.



Since his first solo choreography Aatt enen tionon (1996), choreographer and dancer Boris Charmatz (Chambéry, 1973) has made a name for himself as a dance innovator. Charmatz was classically trained at the École de Danse in Paris and the 

Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Lyon. In 1992, he founded the group Association Edna together with Dimitri Chamblas, and made his dance debut with À bras-le-corps (1993). Since then, alongside dance performances, he has also produced improvisation art, installations, films, performances in public spaces, excursions and conceptual exhibitions. In 2008, he was appointed artistic director of the Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne, which he renamed the Musée de la danse a year later. The productions of this 'museum in movement' have been performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Musée de la danse: Three Collective Gestures, 2013) and the Tate Modern in London (If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse?). Charmatz has also established himself as a writer and dance theorist. A number of his essays were published as a collection titled 'Je suis une école' in 2009, and he is the co-author of undertraining / On A Contemporary Dance (2011, with Isabelle Launay) and Emails 2009-2010 (2013, and with Jérôme Bel). In 2011, he was artiste associé at the Festival d'Avignon. 
Charmatz employs a radical approach in order to discover and transmit new forms of dance and to reflect on this art form. Such as in 50 years of dance, a high-speed run-through of the oeuvre of Merce Cunningham, the great master of dance (Holland Festival, 2010). Or in enfant (Holland Festival, 2011), a confrontational performance about the vulnerability of children, in which his dancers manipulate the bodies of 26 children - as vulnerable obstacles. Aside from a busy tour schedule, Charmatz enjoys improvising with other performing artists, such as poet and hiphop innovator Saul Williams, saxophonist Archie Shepp and trumpeter Médéric Collignon. As a performer, he can often be seen in works by artists such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Tino Sehgal. In 2015, he exhibited manger, probably his most radical work to date, at the Holland Festival. danse de nuit premiered in 2016 at the La Bâtie-Festival de Genève.



Régis Badel, Olga Dukhovnaya, Julien Gallée-Ferré, Alexis Hedouin, Jolie Ngemi, Marlène Saldana
Boris Charmatz
Yves Godin
lightcarriers (Amsterdam)
Birger van Severen, Lee Hayes, Roeland Hoekstra, Ruben Lanzieri
Jean-Paul Lespagnard
vocal training
Dalila Khatir
improvisaties van dansers. teksten Erasure, Hands Touching, Move and Starfucker van Tim Etchells, woorden van Patrick Pelloux in Radio France Inter op 8 januari 2015, tekst van Boris Charmatz, quotes en hereigening van Robert Barry, Marc Gremillon, Bruno Lopes, Didier Morville, Thierry Moutoussamy, Bruce Nauman, Christophe Tarkos, en een Franse telrijm
stage manager
Fabrice Le Fur
light technician
Mélissandre Halbert
Marion Régnier
rehearsal coach touring
Magali Caillet-Gajan
production direction
Sandra Neuveut, Martina Hochmuth, Amélie-Anne Chapelain
Musée de la danse / Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne – geleid door Boris Charmatz. Het gezelschap ontvangt subsidie van het Ministerie van Cultuur en Communicatie (Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs / Brittany), de stad Rennes, de Regional Council of Brittany en Ille-et-Vilaine Departemental Council. Institut français steunt regelmatig de internationale tournees van Musée de la danse.
with the support from
Fondation d'entreprise Hermès in het kader van het New Settings programma
Théâtre National de Bretagne-Rennes, Théâtre de la Ville & Festival d’Automne à Paris, la Bâtie-Festival de Genève, Holland Festival - Amsterdam, Kampnagel - Hamburg, Sadler’s Wells Londen, Taipei Performing Arts Center, Onassis Cultural Centre – Athene
thanks to
Le Triangle-cité de la danse, Rosas, WIELS Centre d'Art Contemporain (Bruxelles), Arnaud Godest, Perig Menez, Ashley Chen, Peggy Grelat-Dupont, Mani Mungai, Frank Willens
with the kind authorization by
Tim Etchells voor het gebruik van zijn teksten

This performance was made possible with support by