Subscribe online / Download the subscription form Book online Buy impro card
théâtre national de nice

Saison 2018-19

théâtre national de nice

[ Co-production ]



with Mehdi Baki, Valérie Doucet, Olivier Mathieu, Émilien Janneteau, Florence Peyrard, Lucas Struna artistic assistant Yurie Tsugawa lighting Jérémie Cusenier costumes Sigolène Petey sound Antoine Garry creation of machinery Yves Bouche, Julien Cialdella set advisor Bénédicte Jolys technical direction Albin Chavignon trainee costumes Pauline Hervouet production Les Petites Heures - La Scala - Paris coproduction Théâtre de Namur, Printemps des Comédiens - Montpellier, Théâtre National de La Criée - Marseille, CCN2 - Grenoble, Célestins - Lyon, Le Liberté - scène nationale de Toulon, Mars - Mons, Théâtre National de Nice - CDN Nice Côte d’Azur

Imagine bodies in perpetual motion, drawn to empty spaces, animated by forces much greater than themselves. Imagine dancers and acrobats hanging from pulleys, falling down a staircase that leads to nowhere, disappearing through a trap door or spinning round forever. Imagine chain reactions set in constant motion around unstable structures. Imagine actors rising up and, before falling down again, living that instant of being suspended, like a gift from the present moment.
Reflecting an insatiable quest for balance and an unquenchable desire for freedom, this new production displays the whole vocabulary of the talented choreographer and portrays his search for a universal language. After ten years of research, Yoann Bourgeois delivers us his most beautiful show yet, with all the poetry of space and motion, revealing the fragility of Man.

Be prepared for a few surprises with circus artist Yoann Bourgeois’s gravity-defying theatre performance.

« Seven exceptional circus artists play with splitting images, bounce on trampolines and disappear under the stage before coming back through doors to fight reality where dreams of elevation and nightmare of falling are linked. Pure illusion, Yoann Bourgeois’s show is a success. »
Les Inrockuptibles


Interview Yoann Bourgeois

Interview by Caroline Audibert

It’s been some years that you have performed beyond the confines of theatres – does this mean a return to the stage?

In recent years I have moved away from theatres, it’s true. I invested in places that are not a priori designed for shows. I created props and devices so that I could be autonomous and poetize natural environments, urban spaces, swimming pools, museums, parks….. I wanted to perform in all manner of places, especially those where culture had fallen a bit by the wayside. I laid the groundwork for this approach from 2014 with a project called Tentatives d’approches d’un point de suspension (which is still evolving).
When I met Frédéric Biessy who proposed that I create a show for the opening of the Scala Theatre that he is renovating, I decided to get as close as possible to the proscenium and not make the stage into some kind of meditative space, especially given that the theme of the show would be outdoors, beyond the theatre. The production Scala really has its base in physical phenomena, starting from the concrete world of the stage.

Are you continuing with your exploration of physical movement that echoes the inner workings of human existence?

This play tries to achieve something that I have been looking for since I first started to create performances – that’s eight year ago now. My background is the circus and what has always fascinated me is how circus performers are vectors of forces rather than “actors” as we would say in theatre. In circus terms, we face significant physical constraints, often much more extreme than in daily life. We explore a very specific relationship to movement. The first play I produced eight years ago, for example, Fugue/Trampoline, was a short dramatic dance where I am constantly off-balance. I dreamt of never actually getting the momentum started, to trigger an endless fall. I managed this for the whole 8-minute performance. Since then, I have been looking for other ways of generating such imbalance. As a work, the play Scala has taken on a more classic form, where there is a chain reaction of events and constant lack of balance. To show men and women who are vectors rather than actors, who don’t initiate the momentum but who try to go with a flow that is bigger than them and that they don’t understand, reflects my vision of our humanity, our condition.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Even if I direct the Choreography Centre in Grenoble and spend some time in town, I live in the mountains. Living in this setting means being constantly confronted by an environment that is much bigger than you. In the mountains, there is disproportion in scale and time: when we look at the contours around us, there is something about it that defies our human correlation to time. I find this disproportionate relationship between the scale of our lives and everything around us quite upsetting. Perhaps it reveals our own fragility. In my works, I’m less inclined to show glorious bodies that tame and triumph over the elements, than a backdrop that reveals our fragility.

You talk about Subjected Man, Man subject to forces that are beyond him. Is he “subjected” like in Greek tragedies, to which you sometimes refer, to social demands, ideologies, emotions, passion?

I’ll digress a bit to give you a better answer. Each time that I tried to understand the meaning of a word, I would remember the physical and mechanical definition of words that I thought were eloquent. The theatricality that I seek is one of eloquence, one that is most likely to broaden meaning or definition: to generate an incredible proliferation of analogies in fields that are sometimes quite remote. Let’s take the word “work” – in physics we understand this as a measure of energy transfer by an “external force in the direction of displacement.” “Give” or “room for play” is defined in the proper sense as “the space between two pieces that allows them to move freely.” I find these definitions extremely poetic: they have very broad metaphorical scope. That’s why I focus on the physical word above everything else.
Man is subjected to forces and I’m talking about physical forces. If I refer to Tragedy, it’s because I see a sort of analogous crying out. In an Epic, before tragedy, the Gods direct men: when a warrior shoots his arrow, it’s a God who is acting through his actions. Later, come the advent of Philosophy, Man is defined as a creature that can reason, for example. In between the two, there is some indecision about Man’s status: in Tragedy, we do not know if he is responsible for his actions or if he is acting upon the whims of a God. Greek Tragedy asks the burning question – what is Man? I feel deeply concerned by this issue even if I accept that Man is the stuff of physical forces and not divine ones.

This raises the question of freedom. Does your work revolve around this in the sense that Maurice Blanchot said that every work revolves around an invisible and unattainable core?

With live art, we allow ourselves very few radically procedural steps, unlike Maurice Blanchot who is important to my work. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not afraid to repeat myself and be endlessly preoccupied about something. To be honest, I don’t see other ways to create, than those that come about step by step, through repetition even or spiral activity. This is partly why I created devices and props that are versions, variations and sets of phenomena and certain objects. In Scala, there will also be a correlation with gravity, like using the ladder that goes nowhere. It’s because it goes nowhere that it raises the question about meaning, direction. By posing it as a problem in the nothingness, we open up an existential dimension.

Your “grammatical” base is made up of a whole ensemble of machinery, the staircase, a trampoline, pulleys, electromagnets, a rotating stage…..Do they all serve in your quest for weightlessness?

These autonomous devices highlight a phenomenon and are all part of a constellation, which has grown over the years. I named it, “attempts to reach a point of suspension.” This is at the heart of my research. It goes beyond a work theme for me – it is a quest for existence. I can’t see an alternative. The apparatus amplifies gravity, centrifugal forces, swaying forces… What I aiming to do is to restore a sense of balance, to create a suspension point at the heart of these environments that are so very precarious. This is the common direction or aim in my approach to all of the devices. As I write shows, I realize that what I am aiming for in my relationship with the audience is some kind of suspension. By that I mean a balance of the forces in play. I don’t aspire to live in a world where there is no balance of power, of forces. I create in the context of our social and political systems. With this work I am engaged in a balance of power that tries to thwart or disturb the equilibrium of forces, of domination, of the sway of speech or communication. It makes sense on another level. Duchamp said, “It’s the audience who finish the work.” I call that “eloquence”: when something is said without need of words. That’s the essence of my research.

Is it a metaphor for human existence?

Shows are points of reference or benchmarks. In scientific terms they are “model worlds” where reality is deliberately simplified by removing certain issues that could complicate the research and we just get on with the phenomenon. I try to construct my shows so that they stand for something. The process I follow is one of simplifying, which is the opposite to the world of the circus. If I really manage to achieve something with a certain amount of simplicity, I hope that it becomes a universal point of reference. These phenomena might just lead to a common language. When dealing with gravity, we can perhaps touch upon a form of universal empathy. A child can feel the weight of his or her body, in the same way as an old person, a Chinaman, an African… We all have to carry this weight.

Basically, it’s more a quest for finding a balance that drives you, rather than a fascination for losing balance and falling…

One goes hand-in-hand with the other, in the same way that we cannot totally love life by denying death. In essence, if I recreate environments where there is a strong element of imbalance, it is to show a connection to life where everything is constantly in movement and growing. If my shows have a following it’s maybe because we are living in a time of tremendous change, in a world where we sense that everything is in a state of flux. I have the impression that currently there is a collective consciousness about the question of imbalance and transformation.

Do you think that humanity will find this equilibrium; that it will do everything it can to find it?

I always try to check any thoughts that are overly anthropocentric, to not consider everything within the prism of humanity. I think that the world will carry on, that in any event, life will find new forms. I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic – this is not the first time that history has witnessed an overhaul. I’m under no illusion: all this will disappear, like everything does. I feel exposed or subjected to it all but also to a desire to live forever – that is why I think that there is only the present. You have to try with all your heart to live in the time given to us. Through my creative works, I try to tame the present, suspend it….this moment of grace.

always on the move
Main Auditorium running time 50mn. from 12 years +
  • november
  • thu 8 8pm
  • fri 9 8pm
  • sat 10 8pm
© 2018 Centre Dramatique National Nice Côte d'Azur · Directed by Irina Brook · Promenade des arts 06300 Nice Tél 04 93 13 19 00 · Fax 04 93 13 79 60 · · Legal Notice