Extract from the March 7th Yoann Bourgeois show as part of the Festival CIRQUE[S] 2014 at Le Quai – Centre Dramatique National in Angers.
‘The Art of Fugue’ is a musical score by Bach, regarded as an unfinished masterpiece – here, inspired circus master and skilled dancer Yoann Bourgeois has used it as a base to develop a subtle blend of circus, dance, classical music and philosophy.
A grand piano shares the stage space with a huge wooden cube: static shapes enlivened by an acrobatic pair of dancers. Some of the floorboards collapse, a plank of wood slides away to reveal a trampoline, and bodies speak through their movements.
Ethereal and precise, ‘The Art of Fugue’ is striking in its perfection, and the voice of Gaston Bachelard accompanying the echoing piano notes is even more magnetic. This is a fitting tribute to the German composer and a declaration of love for the art of acrobatic choreography. A stunning show, touched by grace.
Yoann Bourgeois, acrobat, actor, juggler, and dancer, is first and foremost a player. Growing up in a small village in the Jura (France), he discovered vertigo games at the Cirque Plume, later graduating from the Centre National des Arts du Cirque de Châlons-enChampagne alternating with the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine d’Angers. He researched weightlessness with Alexandre Del Perugia and Kitsou Dubois and became a member of the Maguy Marin company at the Centre Chorégraphique National de Rillieux-la-Pape, where, over four years, his work centered on the theme of “communal being.”
After revivals of May B and Umwelt and two new works, Turba in 2007 and Description d’un Combat (Description of a Fight) in 2009, he began his own creative practice in 2010. Along with Marie Fonte, he founded l’Atelier du Joueur (The Player’s Workshop), a nomadic resource center for performance. This workshop, uniting artists across several disciplines, was to provide the basis of Compagnie Yoann Bourgeois. The group settled in Grenoble, Bourgeois’ birthplace, with the intention of exploring the hidden
ties between the games of mimicry and vertigo. A commission from Grenoble’s art center MC2 allowed the group access to the Vauban Belvedere, ancient fortifications perched high over the city, resulting in the site-specific work Cavale. The work played with the impressive views to giddying effect.
An initial creative cycle began with a number of large musical works focusing on the “figure”—a key element of classical circus repertoire—in conjunction with the “motif,” allowing for a new form of performance liberated from the need to be spectacular. This resulted in 2010 in Les Fugues, short dances for a man with an object in response to JS Bach’s The Art of the Fugue; in 2011, L’Art de la Fugue, a deconstruction of a monolithic block by two performers, male and female, alongside Bach’s eponymous work; and in 2012, Wu-Wei, created for the artists of the Beijing Opera and inspired by the Taoist principle of “nonaction.” Also in 2012 the company inaugurated the C.I.R.C. (Centre International de Recherches Circassiennes) with several trips to China with the aim of establishing the ancestral roots of acrobatic movement.
In 2013, a year of transition, Bourgeois launched a new program for circus academies based on the body of his own work. Convinced that performers should appropriate their own interpretations of circus performance, the project, backed by the SACD, aimed to reflect upon the conditions of circus apprenticeship with a view to establishing a true circus repertoire.
In 2014, a second body of work was to radicalize his thinking yet further. Taking the etymology of “drama” as a weaving together of actions as a starting point, and applying it to the circus, he was drawn to the dramatic possibilities of the relationship between the body and the forces acting upon it. This resulted in Celui Qui Tombe (He Who Falls), a work for six performers created in September 2014 for the Lyon dance biennale.
In parallel, research on physical devices, allowing the individual to multiply into many subjects, resulted in the creation of Les Paroles Impossibles (Impossible Speech).
Also in 2014, an invitation to perform at the Théâtre des Abbesses in Paris encouraged the creation of a new work from a “constellation” of pre-existing ideas. Minuit (Midnight) is a sitespecific work created “in situ” with the technical and spacial particularities of each host theater in mind.
Each edition of the show varies according to the artists invited to perform and the different material objects they bring with them on stage. The idea of a circular stage, in reference to the traditional circus “Big Top,” is at the center of Bourgeois’ thinking when imagining new projects. Offering perfect sightlines to the audience and allowing a nonhierarchical rapport between performers, the circle affirms the popular dimension of his work.
In 2015, he began work on tentative approaches to a suspension point, involving eight pieces of apparatus and a circular stage design allowing for a
360° view. These new short pieces will be added to existing works for Numéros Poèmes, a collection of eleven poetic objects.
Since January 2016, Yoann Bourgeois has co-directed the CCN2-Centre Chorégraphique National de Grenoble.
These many and varied projects express his pressing desire to embrace and experiment with life in all its forms. Yoann Bourgeois’ life is dedicated to the performing arts