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EXCLUSIVE: Marie-Agnès Gillot, the flight ...

April 26 2018

[Click on the image to see the gallery]

Fifteen days after saying goodbye to the Paris Opera, Marie Agnès Gillot danced with Luc Bruyère three pieces entitled Déambulation avec Olafur, a silent conversation inspired by the exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson, Objects defined by activity, presented at the gallery Espace Muraille in Geneva. Three overwhelming movements of meaning and beauty. Meeting at the heart of the soul. - Isabelle Cerboneschi.

From Marie-Agnès Gillot's past, we have (almost) read everything: her entrance to the Paris Opera School at the age of 9, despite a scoliosis that requires her to wear a corset for 17 years. Her appointment as a star dancer for 29 years, after a performance of Signes by Carolyn Carlson. Her ability to melt her body in all styles, all choreography. Her farewell to the Opera, the 31st, last March, after dancing Orphée et Eurydice from Pina Bausch. A symbolic choice besides, as an invitation not to turn back, on pain of losing what we came to seek.

But what I came to watch at the Espace Muraille Gallery on this Monday 16 April, was not the past, but the present and the future that the shooting star is weaving according to the calls of her body and soul. A present that is a paradoxically built on her inability to be immobile. Her body was born dancing, scoliosis being only a detail over which she hastened to over throw. "The boundaries are always a starting point, the beginning of work. It's within the limits that we begin to find something to work with, "says Luc Bruyère. He talks about her, he talks about himself too, a dancer who misses his left arm. "I was born without that arm, so I never missed it, because I did not lose it," he says. But dancing with Marie, for the first time in my life, I realised that I was missing something. And she gave it to me. "

She handed him, offered, lent an arm in the three pieces she created for the Galerie Espace Muraille, in Geneva, around the exhibition Objects defined by the activity of Olafur Eliasson. "I have a scoliosis, it's missing an arm, what a curious assembly!" She says. To watch them dance, however, the assembly is perfect of his lack of him, of his too much to her. Their bodies intertwine, she on his back, kissing him, holding him against his body, disappearing to better offer him this member who fills a void, in front of the work Black glass sun, Olafur Eliasson. Sublime eclipse.

"I am resistant to blood. It has been passed on from generation to generation. "

Their beauty born of the union is overwhelming. Looking at them so full of each other, I think of Plato's androgynous myth. Originally, Aristophanes said in The Banquet, there were three categories of human beings: men, women and androgyny. The latter were complete beings in the form of a sphere with four hands, four legs, two faces. Out of pride, they attacked the Gods who took their revenge. Zeus split them in half, condemning them to look for their lost other half for a lifetime. "I like to hold myself against her, to put my hand on her hump," said Luc Bruyère, hugging Marie-Agnès Gillot. I feel whole. Is it like they found each other?

In the basement of the gallery, the bodies become entangled. There is now Marie-Agnès Gillot and Luc Bruyère . They greet. The forty or so privileged spectators applaud. But this is not enough to express the upheaval, a bravo sounds, then two, then ten, then others. The whole room resonates with Italian bravos, while one is in the basement of a patrician building in the Old Town of Geneva. We can not always hold everything, hide everything. It is necessary that the hearts exult. And from the eyes, a few tears.

Marie-Agnès Gillot and Luc Bruyère have allowed the audience, to express this inner vacillation, this nostalgia for completeness.

IC: The exhibition Objects defined by the activity of Olafur Eliasson is a way of making the person who is part of the work. You took it literally, if I may say so?
Marie-Agnès Gillot: Exactly! At the foot of the point.

What is there in the work of this artist who touches you?
The brightness of his works. There is always a shadow and light side. And that reminds me of my scene, because I'm only enlightened when I'm on stage. And when I go into Olafur's works, it's as if they enlighten me.

What did you do to create these choreographies?
Title: Objects defined by the activity. I created a sculpture for Luc and it's like an answer to that. I carved it with my tips and I gave it to him. She becomes her arm when one begins to dance: it is therefore an object defined by the activity. I had created a work called "Arme de pointe” for the Palais de Tokyo, after a slaughter in the United States. I wrote below: "Drop your weapons". The evening of my farewells at the Opera, Luc was there and I changed this weapon into "arm". This choreography is both a conversation with the works of Olafur and the addiction I have for Luc.

A tip, though, is a bit of an object of torture.
No, for me it is an object of elevation.

Despite the pain?
I do not have any pain from my points. I have it no more.

The choice to dance Orpheus and Eurydice by Pina Bausch for your farewell at the Paris Opera 31st last March is symbolic. In mythology, Orpheus is the one who can not look back, in fear of losing what he came looking for. Is it a way to leave without going back?
Yes. What I liked was being watched by the audience. It's as if I was Orpheus and the audience was my Eurydice and it was the last time we would see each other: "I look at you and after it's over". There is a double meaning to the story and to what I interpreted. I split and interpreted all the roles in front of the audience. I liked this idea of ​​playing on genres and being both in my head and body.

It was not the last time, however, since you will soon be back at the Opera.
That's why in my farewell speech, instead of saying "goodbye", I said, "See you tomorrow!" I was taken back to dance the Season's Canon of the choreographer Crystal Pite, on a music by Max Richter and Vivaldi. The first will take place on May 19.

In Pina Bausch's choreographies the arm raises are extraordinary, as if the limits imposed by the joints did not exist. Is it difficult to get Pina Bausch's dances into ones body?
I did not think about it in these terms. There are very strict codes in Pina's choreography: one rises their arms with a ripple in one's wrist. We must feel it in the air. It's a way of doing things. But I did not perceive that I was disarticulated. In general, classical dancers do not really move their arms because they place them in fixed positions. But as I had already passed through the hands of great masters, I had worked my upper body much more than what is needed in the classic, with Carlson, Mats Ek, etc. For me it was a lesson in more bust art. It was just a continuation of my knowledge.

You had the chance to dance creations of living choreographers: Pina Bausch, Carolyn Carlson, Anjelin Preljocaj, Maurice Béjart, William Forsythe, ... Is it harder to slip into the footsteps of a dead choreographer whose intentions we do not know?
I am in search of perfection: I want to have the truth in me and reproduce it. But when I dance a Swan Lake or a Raymonda, and I'm told: "1, 2, 3, 4, ... On the 4 you do that ...", I never know if it's good musicality. When I dance classical, I do not know if I'm right because I do not have access to God or the apostles. And that annoys me.

You were named Prima ballerina after dancing Carolyn Carlson's Signs. You were 29 years old. We can not change the story, but why so late?
It is not for me to answer that question. But what I can say is that I suffered from this slowness when I was young and I appreciate it at the end of my career. I'm happy to have patience and not be bitter. A bit like a good wine, I matured on my side and when I came to the front of the stage, I was ready to receive everything. When you become a star, you get a lot of aggression. If I had been younger, I was so sensitive that I might have destroyed or let some facets of me be destroyed, while I'm still whole, right in my boots. With scoliosis all at the same!

To be in the light is to be in danger?
On the stage no, but in life yes. The light of life does not reflect the light of the scene, unfortunately.

You mention your scoliosis. What made you cling to this art, despite the body that could have refused to follow you?
I never thought it would be otherwise. My scoliosis was not an obstacle in itself, it was just a step. I faced. When you have a disability, what is very important is the look of your parents and family. If they do not make it a statement, the child will not make it a statement either.

There is a kind of unusual resistance to pain in you. Is this word, resistance part of your heritage?
Yes. I have resistance in my blood. It's something that was given to me.

Do you speak of Resistance in the historical sense of the term?
Both. I have always had an ability to resist. It's not a will. I am like that. But that was passed on to me. All members of my family were in the French Resistance since the beginning of the First World War onwards. It has been passed from generation to generation. Many were disabled after the war. My great grandfather was injured, he lost an arm, but the body, even when injured, is still resistant.

The dance is an art but also a discipline that goes against the natural state of the body and forces it to exceed its physical limits. Is it in this constraint that you have found freedom?
I do not have any constraints in dance. I had physical predispositions that led me to dance. My hips were turned out, my joints and muscles were fine, my tendons were long, I had a sense of innate movement ... It was so easy for me that it became laughable. Everyone says to me, "You must have suffered a lot." Well no, not at all! Maybe that's why I went so far: when I started, it was not difficult, I saw it as a game. I put my leg over the shoulder, and presto! Even the great technical prowess in dance, that does not effect me. I do them directly. My job is to reproduce them, to find sensation and perfection. It's an instinct and a moment.

And in your ballet points?
In my points I suffered, of course: it is necessary when the foot moves to make the point. But today I do not suffer anymore. It's funny: we always talk about suffering by evoking dance yet when I ride on horseback, there I have a lot of pain: buttocks, abs, everywhere. I realised some things in my life hurt a lot more than dancing. I believe that some suffer, but not in my case.

You paint, you write, you choreograph, you put your body at the service of all forms of dance, you are a total artist. Does your whole life, all your thoughts, your dreams, have to express themselves in one way or another through an art form?
Yes, I can not keep things for myself. I am always surprised by what I do. At times, I am a spectator of my life. I have a lot of ideas that are viable and that come like an arrow. They go through me, like kind of flashes.

When you dance, you leave no trace, just the memory of a gesture. Did you choose to paint so that you can leave a trace?
No because I love the ephemeral. I do not keep my paintings, I give them away. I do not take pictures, I do not keep them in memory or in archives. I know, it's not good. Even my mother agues with me. (Laughter).

Is dancing talking in silence?
It's not talking. I chose dance not to talk. I wanted to be dumb. When one speaks, one reaches the others only in one language. I want to address everyone and body language is the most universal form.

When you dance, your body changes, just like the air around you. Is it a way to sculpt the void in an invisible and instantaneous way?
Sculpting the air, these are techniques that I learned, but I did not stop there: I forgot them. When I dance, I ask you to go into the dance with me; even if you do not touch me, you inevitably enter the dance with me. It is rather an act of generosity: I do it to give. I do not dance for me, in general, I do it to dance better.

Are you able to stand still?
It's the hardest thing for me, immobility. This is the largest exercise in style: live without predictable movement. Besides immobility for a being, it does not exist, as we breathe. When I'm in stillness, as in the Pieta I play in Orpheus and Eurydice, for example, I hide my breath. I was left for half an hour without moving, and it's very hard

While dancing, one seeks to rise - on the points, by a wear, by a jump - but the laws of gravitation always condemn you to go down again on the ground. Is dancing a fight between Heaven and Earth?
I do not feel like I'm coming down to the earth: when I jump, I fly! I decide to fall back. But if I have not decided, I do not fall back. It's a sensation I know: I know what it's like to fly. It's a crazy call, I will fly two or three seconds. And that, I love!

I could only believe in a God who could dance, wrote Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra. And you?
Me too.

You have animated choreographic workshops with the inmates from a prison in the town of Arles . Does dance make free even those who are physically locked up?
Of course! This is the greatest escape: the mind goes farther than the body. We can escape by the movement too, because it's like a ricochet, it goes beyond the walls. Thankfully so, because otherwise I would not have supported it. I'm not used to confinement. I was used to when I was young being in my corset, but I had forgotten the feeling of confinement.

Did that remind you?
Yes. And it was painful.

The dancer and choreographer Carolyn Carlson, who was also the prima ballerina the Paris Opera, was still dancing at the age of 70 with the ballet Dialogue with Rothko. Will you dance until your body refuses?
He will never refuse my body! (Laughter). By the way, I'm going to dance the Dialogue with Rothko with Carolyn Carlson. This is the last solo she has done for herself. So far, she has never given a solo to anyone else. It lasts an hour and a half. I have already done the second part that lasts 45 minutes to the Menil Collection in Houston. I still have half an hour to learn. I will dance it alone, but we will also dance it together, at the Venice Biennial in 2019. I love to repeat with her, this feeling of being behind her, dancing with her. I'm tired of being alone, actually. I search duality. I found it with Luc too. I do not want to be alone: ​​it does not suit me. I had a solo career, that's good. Now I make a career with others.

I searched for an anagram of "scoliosis" and there is none. On the other hand, I discovered that it contained the word "colossus", which means "a tall person who gives an impression of extraordinary strength". And I thought that was fine with you ...
Me too I think it suits me! (Laughter). Moreover, the anagram of Marie-Agnès is in French « Aimer Anges », which means "Love Angels" ...

Exhibition: OLAFUR ELIASSON, Objects defined by activity, Espace Muraille,  Place des Casemates Espace Muraille, Geneva until 28 April 2018

"When I jump, I fly! I decide to fall back. But if I have not decided, I do not fall back. "

"I do not want to be alone anymore: it does not suit me. I had a career alone, that's good. Now I make a career with many. "