THE CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY
By Helmut Ploebst
When a dancer performs then this means that she is presenting her performance to a potential audience. However, with this she does not only bring herself into presence, but especially a context which actually legitimates her to confront a public and to maintain that her appearance will make something happen which is more than just a person X who now becomes perceivable as figure XDance. And this More is a created situation, an instigated process – and also simply the disappearance of the non-event which, e.g., an empty stage represents as long as someone expects an event on it which then happens. A performance which – if one for example transferred Yves Klein’s depiction of emptiness into the Black Box – explicitly represented a stage’s “un-playedness”, would be an event by transgressing an audience’s expectations.
The Theatre As a Bag of Tricks
A stage work without human actors is even rarer than abstract films. The dancer Alix Eynaudi, born 1976 and grown up in a small village between Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, enthuses over Romeo Castellucci’s piece “M.#10 Marseille. X Episodio della Tragedia Endogonidia”, because it largely dispenses with the presence of performers. It is a choreography only with light and sound, she says. And that’s fantastic. Eynaudi also has a weakness for Sophie Calle and her work about absence, the empty space which indicates something removed, something taken away. In the interview the dancer talks about techniques of disappearing, about tricks – and then hesitates: “that’s hard to describe”, as if she didn’t want to show her hand.
Theater not only is a peephole, but also a bag of tricks. The term “illusions” is often used in connection with this. “Tricks” sounds harder, more precise and – more disillusioning. “Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes about the suspension of incredulity”, Alix Eynaudi says, “and that’s what I’m interested in, this moment where as a spectator you switch off everything you know.” The dancer is convinced that this is a conscious decision of the audience. In 1817, Coleridge formulated his literary biography: “(…) it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters, supernatural or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”
“Collect-If” and “Crystalll”
Eynaudy conducts her investigation in the “Twilight Zone” between presence and absence, between appearance and disappearance not only with the means of an interpreter, but also with those of an author. With Rosas, where she danced for six yeras, she also employed “disappearing”, the reduction of her own presence, when she had problems complying with what she was supposed to show. Up to the point where she knew that she didn’t want to perform any longer in pieces she couldn’t support. “Of course you realise then that you have to do it yourself.”
Opting out of the secure structure of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s company was a hard decision, especially during the nine months’ transition period. When Bojana Cvejic invited her in 2003 to take part in the project “Collect-If” (together with Emil Hrvatin, Ugo Dehaes, Varinia Canto Vila, Katarina Stegnar and Rebecca Murgi), that was a kind of sheet anchor. Various co-operations followed, among others with Hrvatin and Erna Ómarsdóttir in “We are all Marlene Dietrich FOR” and with Superamas in “Big 3rd Episode”, but mainly with her friend, the choreographer Alice Chauchat. Together they created the solo “Crystalll” (2005), a dialogous co-operation which also is about appearance and disappearance – of a stereotype. Eynaudi and Chauchat met at the school in Lyon when they were 16. Although both underwent the qualifying examination for P.A.R.T.S., their development took quite different turns: “We had very different experiences with dance, and also developed quite different views on it.”
“I’m very headstrong”
Alix Eynaudi took up dancing with eight, because “the little girls in my village joined the ballet and the little boys the football teams”. Sounds orderly. “Every year there was a performance by the ballet school in the village square, and everybody came to see it. The mothers made costumes, the fathers took over lighting and decoration, it was such a beautiful atmosphere.” Alix performed in musicals like “An American in Paris” or “Emilie Jolie”. When her family moved to Lyon, she visited the local conservatoire and decided to become a dancer. After half a year, she joined the ballet school of the Parisian opera, where she is accommodated at the boarding school between 11 and 14. From the viewpoint of dancing, a pleasure for the girl. “But humanely it was a bad experience. Thinking there was archaic. Everything was directed at inciting competition between the children.” A heavy injury forced Eynaudi to quit. She moved back to Lyon. Only with 16 she could convince her parents to let her begin with dancing again.
“I said it’s that or nothing. I’m very headstrong.” There was an audition at the opera of Liège where she was not taken. “But someone saw me who said that he was founding a new classical company in Belgium and that I should go there” She agreed, and with 17 years started working. For a while Eynaudi remained in Charleroi, then moved to Brussels where she worked in a neo-classical group. She accompanied her friend Alice Chauchat to the P.A.R.T.S. audition, and in 1995 participated in the very first year – among others with Erna Ómarsdóttir, Arco Renz, Saskia Hölbling and Thomas Plischke.
The Second Chance
“I was a bad student”, Eynaudi concedes. “I rarely went to classes and slept through them. In the first year I didn’t understand anything.” At that time the contemporary approaches were alien to her and seemed boring. “So at the end I was called into Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s office, and they told me that I would be fired. But I thought that I wanted to stay – maybe there was something I didn’t get yet.”
She received a second chance, three months on probation. “And then Thomas Plischke asked me whether I wanted to work with him. I agreed, and then I went into it, and I loved it. It was about improvisation, that was a great discovery.” Again she was asked into Keersmaeker’s office. “I thought I would have to go just when I began to like it. But she asked me whether I wanted to join Rosas. I was so shocked! I hadn’t even thought about it, hadn’t even taken part in the audition. So I joined the company.” Her idea had rather been to dance for William Forsythe sometime, whose work she esteems very much.
At Rosas, she is a dancer noticeable for her special facility and idiosyncratic character. One always thinks her older than she really is, and in the company she often dances duos with older men.
Apart from dancing, her second passion is reading fiction. “I devour books”, she says in the interview. She mentions “Les Racines du mal” by Maurice Georges Dantec, Agota Kristof’s Trilogy “The Notebook”, “The Proof” and “The Third Lie”, also William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky. She likes “very dark stories, I feel less alone then. I’m a very dark person.” We’re talking about “the dark”, and Eynaudi says that the desire to know a maximum of abysses is is embedded in the question whether it would still be possible to dream then: “It is possible, and it is more enjoyable than dreaming for the sake of repression.”
Eynaudi’s appearance as Alix Eynaudi radiates a strong optimism. She talks about romanticism and the multiplicity of one’s own personality, about her inclination for a contemplative view of the world. “I want to be responsible for everything I’m doing. To do something beautiful or to make people feel well already means to make the world a bit better, no? I always try to find meaning in everything.”
So she doesn’t follow Baudrillard’s farewell to reality like in his essay “Agony of Reality”, but she proposes: “(…) fiction and illusion not only reproduce reality (differently), but also produce it, as the truth of imagination is essential in the constitution of real truth. Moreover, illusion and fiction are not only illusion and fiction with regard to reality, but also take part in the way how reality is constructed.” (Alix Eynaudi, concept for “super naturel”)
The simulacrum belongs to the spectacle’s bag of tricks. One can deplore it or one can accept it and create new life in the fissures between fiction and reality. In her thoughts regarding her first independent work “super naturel”, the dancer and choreographer mentions the beautiful term “sophrosyne”, by which Aristotle meant “the achieved reconciliation between natural desires and reason” – “as opposed to self-control (enkrateia) which only suppresses the desires” (Franz-Peter Burkard). In her concept she expresses it thus: “It seems particularly pertinent to me to create a space of representation where the human longing for a state of grace – ‘sophrosyne’ as the Ancient Greeks called it – comes to life, in coexistence with the resistance that is imposed to us by knowledge. Here, the apotheosis of a strange amalgam between technology, science, affect, emotion and belief can come true.”
www.budakortrijk.be (World premiere “super naturel”, March 16, 2007)
www.argekultur.at (“super naturel” at City of Dance, April 28, 2007)