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Paris Performance Calendar

François Lamargot on hybrid dance and the tragedy of the handicapped heart [By Tracy Danison]

1. ALF- Julie Cherki 21 - copie“J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie” by François Lamargot. Photo © Julie Cherki

Dance performer, choreographer and director François Lamargot says his recent “dance-theater” piece, J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie, comes down to his view that our civilization has generated a “handicap of the heart” that blinds its members to the destruction it (the handicap) provokes within and around it.

When Lamargot talks about a “handicap of the heart”, he means impaired hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling of the here and now: non-development of the ordinary senses.  He thinks that when these ordinary powers are weak, the world within a body, the individual or personality, becomes a plaything of what Sting called “the poets, priests and politicians …. whose logic ties you up and rapes you”.

Without a within nourished from the ordinary senses, Lamargot thinks, a body loses herself or himself in a breathless spiral of passive reaction to the world without. Asked if J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie … is a study of the connections between us and the world or of our disconnection from it, Lamargot affirms, “Disconnection”. He says that, in the end, what he wants to suggest by showing the disconnection is that something other (than the handicapped heart and the madness) it produces is possible. He wants to get beyond discourse, to strain every sinew of theatrics, dance and multimedia to get across this other sensibility.

2. ALF- Julie Cherki 1 - copie“J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie” by François Lamargot. Photo © Julie Cherki

Son of a film projectionist and a stage actress, a neighborhood hip hopper with academic dance credentials, as a kid François Lamargot started acting with his mom at the now defunct Théâtre de Ménilmontant collective. He came to dance – classic, jazz and contemporary, with parallel specialties in break and house (freestyle personal expressive) – because he felt more at ease with his body. Also, he says, dancing makes him feel more able to express and show meaning.

Since his early days, Lamargot has created, performed, taught and encouraged dance performance in and from his native Paris 20ème to the Comoros Islands, from Lyon to Haiti and Gabon, from Marseille to New Caledonia.

Lamargot is intellectually and professionally in his element across the culture spectrum. He is as comfortable working on multidisciplinary career development with young people at the Jeune Ballet Européen as he is doing tailor-made creation for the reference hip-hop festivals Kalypso and Karavel.  Ethics and right action in daily life are important to Lamargot. His reference points include the principles of Taoism and the practice of the antique Zen masters Dôgen and Lin-Tsi along with the outlook of the writer Marguerite Duras and the precepts of the Argentine painter Luis Ansa and the contemporary social activist Henri Gougaud.

So, how does Lamargot get all his life experience and philosophy into a dance performance?

First off, by imagining then executing a form of dance. When I saw a first-draft production of J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … at the Théâtre National de la Danse (Palais du Chaillot) in 2022,  I thought of it as “cinematized dance-theater”, even as “musical drama”. I still think that’s a pretty understandable description.

Lamargot says that, taken together, what I could experience as “musical drama” is for him a distinct genre that hybridizes hip hop and specific elements of contemporary dance, especially danse contact (“contact improvisation” or “body empathy dance”).

In any case, he says he’s been instinctively looking for points of fusion among his different dance practices all along. “Movement has no genre frontiers”, he says, adding that there is, anyhow, a lot of complementarity in dance performance figures and forms. For instance, [the foot-fluttering movement called] petite batterie in classical dance “has a rhythm that closely resembles that in house dance…”

ALF- Julie Cherki 11 - copie“J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie” by François Lamargot. Photo © Julie Cherki

These days, in any case, Lamargot doesn’t think much about the originating genre of a move or figure. He prefers to think in terms of a movement’s visual quality: “roundness, fluidity, impact, density, amplitude, explosiveness” and a movement’s effect on the spectator. 

J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … figures both dream and reality – a doubling that mobilizes Lamargot’s whole performance toolbox in the service of “showing” this sensibility of “disconnection” while holding out the possibility for another way of living.

The piece is played out on a set that recalls the feeling one has at the Palais de Glace, Baroque elegance that has lost its cultural moorings, is sliding toward hopeless forgotten-ness. What counts from there, he says, is, especially, theatricality and the astute use of video.

On set, video “translates as a mirror in which a given character also exists”.

As a genre, Lamargot observes, hip hop is powerful theatrical tool … “very forward, very much on the attack, very effective visually”. It often uses, he continues, set-piece situations to induce emotions in characters. These emotions can then be picked up by spectators as “sensibility” rather than as “story-line”.

Forms and riffs of contemporary dance provide attitude. For J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie,Lamargot is thinking in particular of danse contact. Dance contact operates around the receptive body, the body connected to its world. In the performers on stage this receptiveness, as in t’ai chi or karate, translates as strength and potentiality rather than power and action…

In the Paris region, you can catch J̵e̵ t̵’a̵i̵m̵e̵ … à la folie:

- 3 and 4 February 2024 at the Suresnes Cités Danse festival

November 03, 2023

October 26, 2023

October 20, 2023

October 05, 2023

September 14, 2023

September 08, 2023

August 18, 2023

June 29, 2023

June 22, 2023

June 15, 2023

May 25, 2023

May 03, 2023

April 17, 2023

April 13, 2023

April 05, 2023

March 29, 2023

March 09, 2023

March 07, 2023

February 16, 2023

February 08, 2023

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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