The mirror of the body

3 different cycles will enable the discovery of both traditional and contemporary choreographed presentations, conferences, films and various events that address the animal body, the body as a mirror of femininity and the acrobatic body.

Along with the voice, the body is the primary instrument of expression. Today, it has lost many of its functions and much of its identity. Despite a permanent interest in appearances, the body is no longer the first reference of a codified social identity. Its modes of expression - except perhaps within the choreographic space of a performance - have become trivialized and replaced by a sporty or erotic function; or a costume, which is only aesthetic according to the current fashion; this is far from the fertile image of traditional societies.

The body as a vessel for a soul or a prop to be adorned and perhaps occupied, deified, transformed, possessed, animalized, martialized. It can transgress nature or imitate it, it can paint itself, tattoo itself, transform itself, become a cultural, differential and personalized entity within itself.

Through music, dance, fashion shows, martial arts, acrobatics, masks, puppetry, ceremonies of possession or art workshops, this program opens the door to Ancient India and its ancestral cult of the snake, up to hip hop and the urban expression of the body.

Finally, the different aspects of the ritualization of the body all share in common the notion of reaching eternity through the ephemeral, this possibility of becoming the Other for an instant.

cycle 1: The animal body

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Masques de la lune © Alain Weber

from 20th to 30th December 2007

This cycle relates to shamanism and Man’s primary needs to capture the strength and force of animals, to imitate them and deify them

In memory of totemic times Man likes to imitate felinity, be it with the ancient leopard men of Efik and Efo ethnic groups, the masks of Abakwas, which lead us from Cuba to Nigeria, or the children of Karnataka who redesign their bodies to resemble that of a tiger or a panther.

The body paint is an ephemeral mark and at the same time, an emergence of the sacred.

The pattern designed on the ground perfects the ritualization of the space: the kolam, an ephemeral symbol made with rice flour and various colored ingredients, becomes the centre of the ritual of the snake, Naga, a veritable divinity in Kerala echoing the founding myths of Asia.

The dance is linked to the image drawn on the ground with the renaissance of the Simanagdini Ananda Shankar Jayant dance, which, during the classic Kuchipudi dance, depicts a lion with its paws on the sand.

cycle 2: The body as a mirror of femininity

From 13rd to 23rd March 2008

The body in drag: femininity without the woman

This theme will address the drag rituals of Myanmar with, for the first time ever, a presentation of the ceremony of mediums in drag: Naq-Pwe.

In a process of inversion, the masculine body transgresses its nature and adopts, or highlights the mystery of a femininity, which is both close and inaccessible.

The supernatural occurs during the Naq-Pwe ceremony: in order to embody the spirit of Naq, who has decided to ‘marry him’ the Naq-kadaw, beomes the fragile dolly from another world. She is delicate and made-up to the extreme because the Naq-Pwe is a veritable fashion show from the beyond.

Like shamanism, The Naq Pwe reminds us how the feminine possesses the privilege of nature, a place of animal survival and of the sacred. Femininity, like an invisible key justifies and transcends the disguise.

The Taiwanese dancer, Lee Ming Cheng is part of a long tradition where the masculine and the feminine are interchangeable. He and his troop: Body Expression Dance, supply a new, refined and comic vision of the crossover between masculinity and femininity.

The body as a prop.

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Prince Mintha, Marionnettes de Mandalay © D. R.

In Asia, we can observe a very different approach to fashion, notably with the designer, Dongak, from the Republic of Touva. During a fashion show accompanied by diphonic singing and dance, Dongak proposes an absolute epic of dress and costume as a key element of civilization, a visual language and a sign of belonging to a tribe.

We find the same refinement in the famous Mandalay Puppets, which, it is said, were sent by the Gods in order to avoid defying the ancient law that bars human beings from exhibitionism on stage.

Cycle 3: The body in motion: Martial arts and acrobatics

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Last For One © D. R.

From 19 to 28 June, 2008

Paradoxically, men attempt to go beyond their mortal coil through their own body, thereby pushing back the frontiers of the possible.

Whether it be through Brazilian Capoeira or the martial art of Kalarippayattu in Kerala, which is supposedly the oldest martial art in the world, man will attempt, though a new animal mimetism, to appropriate the strength of a divine hero.

In an acrobatic approach, the body tries to re-create through performance an unreal moment, a subterfuge for supernatural powers.

From the magnificent magical and acrobatic ritual of “Moon masks”, which expresses the animal world by the sole light of a full moon reflecting the sunlight, to the hip-hop of B-Boy and Last 4 one, a Korean crew that establishes hip-hop as a new international body language, this very attempt to sublimate our human condition expresses itself after all.