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This and That

The disappearance  of the landscape

I Remember Heaven Is Far Away The Earth As Well

Médéa Mountains

Black Body


Montpellier danse: Aurélien Bory celebrates Indian dance and its god Shiva

Par Ariane Bavelier - 29 June 2018

The viewer will remember the splendid impact of what he has just witnessed for a long time afterwards.

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WE WERE THERE – With her strong and lively little silhouette, Shantala Shivalingappa, graceful as a gazelle, ‘embodies Shiva, who lets the world express itself and allows space to dance’, says Aurélien Bory.

Aurélien Bory has a rather rare hobby which he practises alongside his activity as a choreographer and stage manager: he is a portraitist. In ten years, he has put his name to three portraits of dancers. Stéphanie Fuster was immortalised as a Flamenco dancer, Kaori Ito as a Japanese marionnette.

At Montpellier Danse, he has now created aSH, the portrait of Shantala Shivalingappa. Is she blessed by the gods? This young Indian woman, who works between Paris and Madras where her kuchipudi master teaches, has made a career in the world of show business. She started at Peter Brook, continued at Bartabas then at Pina Bausch before touring as a free spirit. ‘Her dancing is a perpetual balancing act somewhere between Hindu mysticism and quantum physics’, wrote the choreographer. With her, Aurélien Bory touches on the sacred. The Bayaderes taught us. Indian dance is partly linked with the cosmos and the gods. Shiva built the world with his dance.

Aurélien Bory’s creations are unusual in that they apply the mathematical rigour which guided his years of training. He chooses a principle and takes it to the extreme. The idea here is to cross the history of mathematics which is thought to have originated in India, with kolam, the welcome design practised by women using rice powder to draw patterns on the ground. An offering to the new day, a ritual of sanctification and an invitation to the divinities, kolam consists of geometric shapes passed from mother to daughter. Bory dreamed of them being made with ash, hence the title of his piece. Ash is a fertilizer and in India, which practises cremation and agriculture, a sign of the reincarnation cycle.

A labyrinth of circles

With her strong and lively little silhouette, Shantala Shivalingappa, graceful as a gazelle, ‘embodies Shiva, who lets the world express itself and allows space to dance’, says Aurélien Bory. The demonstration that accompanies this principle is infinitely beautiful and takes place to the sound of percussions which veer from whisper to storm. On a stage bathed in darkness, Shantala appears with her back turned before the image of an inlaid door which splits open and reforms. Her dance turns the door into a wave, inhabited by the breath of the heavens. The wave snaps, swells, undulates in great claps and the dancer continues her invocation, tense, determined without letting herself be intimidated by the thunder she awakens and which rumbles at her heels. The wave lies down on the ground.

With an enormous calligrapher’s brush which might have come from Fabienne Verdier’s workshop, Shantala draws on the ground a labyrinth of circles on which she sprinkles ash. She dances on this carpet where her steps imprints signs, rings of rosettes, flowers chiselled by her rocking feet, points fashioned by turns. The kolam design is stretched vertically, the powder falls on the ground on which Shantala continues to dance, the horizontal design mirroring the vertical one. And the air trembles with the percussions’ din.

The ritual is accomplished. Shiva the terrible has gone away. The dancer once again becomes a fragile and exhausted little creature, crouching beneath the kolam picture, an immense sheet of crumpled wrapping paper. But the viewer will remember the splendid impact of what he has just witnessed for a long time afterwards.

Ariane Bavelier


aSH, the thousand lives of Shantala Shivalingappa beautifully choreographed by Bory

Par Olivier Frégaville-Gratian d'Amore - 28 June 2018

Skilfully melding their worlds, choreographer and performer invite you on a permanent journey between ancestral culture and innovative technology, between fire and ice, east and west.

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With her lithe body and airy gestures executed with surgical precision, Shantala Shivalingappa invites you with infinite grace to learn about her unusual background. Rewritten with a poet’s talent by Aurélien Bory, the story of that life, between tradition and contemporary dance, captivates the senses and draws the viewers into a ballad bordering on reality. Magical!

In the half-light, an orange beam lights up the percussionist Loïc Schild. He caresses his instruments with dexterity, making them sing soft litanies which vaguely remind one of Indian music, ritual sounds. Time seems suspended. Imperceptibly, a soft, warm light reveals in the centre of the stage a slender, immobile figure. All one can make out is a long plait of jet black hair. She seems distant, absent.

Then it’s chaos, an immense din breaks the fragile harmony. From the wings, a storm rumbles, awakening a powerful wind, swelling the huge dark canvas which separates the front of the stage from the back, making the scenery tremble. Ramrod straight, hieratic, Shantala Shivalingappa bears up. Like the god Shiva, impassive, very calm before his destructive, life-giving anger is aroused by the frenzied wind heralding the monsoon, she doesn’t bend, doesn’t falter. She bides her time before taking a stand against these furious elements that disturb her meditation.

Slowly, she becomes animated, carrying out clearly and precisely a few movements taken from kuchipudi, the traditional Indian dance, which she has been studying assiduously since an early age. Each gesture reveals the elegance, delicacy and perfect technicity of the performer, who is as much at ease executing ritual dance steps as contemporary ones, especially those written for her by Pina Baush.

Born of the union between a former physics student converted to circus choreography, and a fascinating artist swaying between tradition and contemporary dance, aSH completes the trilogy of women’s portraits by Aurélien Bory, initiated ten years ago after his meeting with Stéphanie Fuster, then continued with Kaori Ito. Skilfully melding their worlds, choreographer and performer invite you on a permanent journey between ancestral culture and innovative technology, between fire and ice, east and west.

An inventive and talented scenographer, Aurélien Bory offers Shantala Shivalingappa a sober and contemporary showcase displaying just beneath the surface the main attributes of the god Shiva, such as snakes teeming under the collapsed canvas, as well as the immemorial rites of women designing patterns of welcome on the ground – here, in ash.

If at first the solo may seem cold and clinical, the dancer’s luminous stage presence, her hypnotic virtuosity and the sound and visual effects, carry the day and give this fascinating evocation a captivating depth and power. A timeless and magnetic ballad.

Olivier Frégaville-Gratian d'Amore


All the grace in the world

Par Emmanuelle Bouchez - 09 January 2019

Thanks to her art inspired by Kuchipudi, Shantala Shivalingappa bewitches the room.

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“Her name, Shantala Shivalingappa, sounds like a musical scansion, that’s why I wanted to create a show with her!” jokes Aurélien Bory the director, who has just created a beautiful stage performance for the dancer. In aSH, we first see her from behind, all in black, her body bent over like the god Shiva, her legs bent at right angles seemingly fixed in the earth for all eternity. She is alert. And her warrior-like energy, her carefully chosen movements soon intertwine with the violence of the percussion. Thanks to her art inspired by Kuchipudi – a form of theatre dance from the south of India whose origins are deeply rooted in Hindu tradition – Shantala Shivalingappa bewitches the room.

The day after a thunderous premier at the Montpellier dance festival, she waits for us calmly. Her feminine elegance with long jet-black hair contrasts sharply with the incredible power on stage from the night before. And the more the conversation progresses, the more her wisdom comes through… Her career as a dancer and choreographer is celebrated as much in Europe as in New York, where she received a Bessie Award in 2013. At 42, she contemplates it as “a life path along which I flow…”. Born in Madras (now Chennai) but raised in Paris, she was introduced to traditional Indian dance by her mother, a dancer of Bharata natyam and Kuchipudi who met Maurice Béjart in 1968, and was a friend of Pina Bausch. From the age of 15, the young girl went to Madras every summer, visiting the dance academy of her Mother’s dance master, a renowned teacher who had contributed to the revival of Kuchipudi since the 1950s. First attracted to the “explosive” element of this style, Shantala Shivalingappa attacks the process like a sprinter. But during her intensive stays in India, she also cultivated the ethereal and sensual grace of this coded art form – sixty-four signs, just for the hands alone! Today, she accepts its revelatory function: “This dance transcends human life and celebrates the divine in each of us.”

Growing up between the two cultures, she was quick to join the contemporary scene. In 1990, Peter Brook scouted her incredible expressive skills and cast her as a very young Miranda in The Tempest… Pina Bausch asked her to join her next creation. When she participated in 0 Dido, at the end of 1998 she was 22 years old: “I was lost, I let myself be carried along. My only assurance was the total confidence that I had in Pina. I have always learned by observing and by copying. So I applied the same method, fascinated by the improvisation process, the attention to detail and the momentum that are so visible in Pina. She worked from the heart.” She took part in Sacré du printemps by the German choreographer and shined, last season, in the reproduction of Nefès. “Every moment spent with the Tanztheater dancers is present whenever I dance, even the Kuchipudi.”

Shantala Shivalingappa likes variety and choreographers should make no mistake about it. Ushio Amagatsu, a pillar of Japanese Buto dance, created a solo for her in 2007. In it she learned about slowness. With Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the Antwerp native, she developed through Play a dialogue of infinite softness. Shantala Shivalingappa has a knack for exchange: dance connects her to others as it connects her to the world.

Emmanuelle Bouchez



Par Philippe Noisette - 15 February 2019

Astounding visuals, such as the paper wave, and drawings on the floor combine with the permanent dialogue between the dancer and the musician Loïc Schild to transform this choreography into a living painting.

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Whether she is dancing to Bach or Indian percussion, Shantala Shivalingappa is perfectly at home, and perfectly in time. Her story is a journey across the world of movement from Pina Bausch to Aurélien Bory, from Ushio Amagatsu to Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Everything started, however, in the footsteps of her mother, the dancer Savitry Nair. At the time, Shantala started to dance without knowing, without even realising that it would become her entire life.

Born in Madras, she grew up in Paris, thriving in the ether between two worlds, between India and Europe, between classic Kuchipudi and contemporary dance. At the age of 13, she found herself on the main stage of the Grand Palais in a show by Maurice Béjart dedicated to the French Revolution. Here, Shantala Shivalingappa represented India almost completely alone over the 10 mintues of her solo. The kind of challenge that even the bravest amongst us might baulk at. Yet, this dancer is the kind of person who keeps her head firmly fixed on her shoulders.

She has worked with imposing figures such as Peter Brook and Bartababs, and then there was the fortuitous meeting with the German choreographer Pina Bausch, one of the shockwaves that rippled through her life as an artist. Shantala Shivalingappa did not hesitate one second to integrate this illustrious dance family, with which she worked on a new production of Sacre du printemps, and new performances including Nefès and Bamboo Blues. Many have thus discovered the otherworldly grace of Shantala.

Trained with the rigour of traditional Indian dance, she has a solid and imposing stage presence mixing powerful facial expressions, with the virtuosity of her feet, and the undulation of her arms. We can easily understand the fascination that the soloist elicits in creators like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Play), and today for Aurélien Bory. The latter crossed Shantala Shivalingappa’s path in Germany during a festival organised by none other than… Pina Bausch. It really is a small world after all.

Ten years later, they are finally working together, with Shantala on stage, and Bory as the director. “In aSH, Shantala Shivalingappa dances beyond her own limits. With a system of ash and vibrations, she embodies Shiva, the god who brings forth the world and makes the space dance”, summarises Aurélien Bory, who thus closes his trilogy of feminine portraits.

Performed for the first time this summer during Montpellier Danse, aSH captured the enthusiasm of the public. Astounding visuals, such as the paper wave, and drawings on the floor combine with the permanent dialogue between the dancer and the musician Loïc Schild to transform this choreography into a living painting.

Shantala Shivalingappa puts the vast range of her skills to work: “Her dancing is a continuous balance between Hindu mystic and quantum physics”, marvels Aurélien Bory. To put it simply, it is a miracle of poetry in motion.


Philippe Noisette


Shantala Shivalingappa communicates with ash

Par Rosita Boisseau - 21 February 2019

Striking, terribly magnetic, with its suggestive power that is constantly renewing with the scenography, aSH radiates out from a hard core: Shantala Shivalingappa.

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The theme was easily found. In creating aSH, a striking antiportrait of the dancer Shantala Shivalingappa, the director Aurélien Bory didn’t have to look very far to find his subject. In Shivalingappa, as he explains in the show playbill, there is Shiva, god of dance and of death in Indian mythology. Shiva is the divinity of battlefields and of cremation who creates as much as he destroys. His body is covered in ash and he wears a necklace made of skulls.

The title aSH was chosen for Shantala, for Shiva and for actual ash. Playing until 1st March, at La Scala in Paris, this sumptuously acrid solo performance, supported by the live music of percussionist Loïc Schild, is the third and final chapter in the collection of works by Aurélien Bory that since 2008 has been dedicated to choreographer-dancers. The director of Compagnie 111, who is more accustomed to massive scenography, momentarily lightens the workload, by dedicating the performance to just one person.

In 2008 the flamenco dancer Stéphanie Fuster was the first in the series with the delicate and pure Questcequetudeviens?, then four years later it was the turn of the Japanese dancer Kaori Ito who struggled through a forest of five thousand threads in Plexus (2012). The two shows are still on tour. “Each performance, created alongside another artist, gives the collaboration genuine form,” explains Bory. Each solo performance delivers up a fantasy vision, a free projection on the director onto the dancer.

Shantala Shivalingappa is an expert in the traditional dance style of Kuchipudi that was created in the 15th century in the State of Andhra-Pradesh, in the South of India. In this performance she is Shiva. All in black, except for a bracelet of tiny diamonds, she emerges from the shadows like a flash of warmth streaking through the night. She calls forth matter and controls it. An immense, dark wave grows and climbs higher and higher, attacking the stage, halting right at the back of her slim silhouette which seems able to call forth the tempest and stop it at will. This strange figurehead, too calm to be overwhelmingly dominant, is the mistress of the elements, playing the triggers and the lightning rods, matching the rhythm of the light to the tempo of her movements and the percussion of Loïc Schild that beats through the air.

Dazzling movements

Striking, terribly magnetic, with its suggestive power that is constantly renewing with the scenography, aSH radiates out from a hard core: Shantala Shivalingappa. She unleashes phenomenal energy when faced with the frenzy of the stage, which is destroyed and remade in a never-ending cycle of creation and destruction. The definitive shadow wins. The visual and aural tidal wave continues to sweep the stage in the face of the cosmic fury of Shiva who here finds a surprising incarnation that is simultaneously tribal and techno, concrete and abstract. The transformation of forms and of materials creates a permanent illusion. “For me, the relationship with space is close to our relationship with death,” says Bory. “It is a living being and tells of our desire for sublimation.” In aSH, the metaphor works perfectly.

In aSH, Shantala Shivalingappa, 43 years old, honed a dark profile that we might not necessarily associate with her.

Between traditional and contemporary dance, as the woman who performed for Maurice Béjart when she was just 13 years old, then Peter Brook, Bartabas, and Pina Bausch, Shantala Shivalingappa has genuine stage presence. Her movements, which find their energy in the long, deep pliés, are dazzling. She releases certain movements of her arms like arrows shooting from a bow. His wrists turn back as one might punctuate a sentence while her hands with pointed index fingers sharply cut through the air or smoothly turn around the turbulence. There seems to be walking paradox with this graphic and undulating dance that is framed by a myriad of rhythmic details. As for the circles traced with the edges of Shantala Shivalingappa’s toe in the carpet of ash, we could stare at them for hours. Her compass movement is just perfectly sublime.

In aSH, Shantala Shivalingappa, 43 years old, honed a dark profile that we might not necessarily associate with her. Usually bright, smiling, and so joyful that she is the first to break into a musical number like “A whole new world” from Aladdin as she did in Play (2010), with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, she always lights up the stage. By coming into contact with Aurélien Bory and his physical theatre she has had the opportunity to explore another facet of her talent that is closer to that of a magician, of a witch: a figure that has seen a significant comeback in recent years in choreography spheres. In aSH, Shantala Shivalingappa communicates with the ash until everything has been said. Fighting against the elements with a warrior’s grace, like Stephanie Fuster before her in water and Kaori Ito in the middle of threads, she closes the trilogy of portraits for those women who dance in the eye of the cyclone.

Rosita Boisseau


Compagnie 111: aSH review – godlike serenity and transcendent movement

Par Lyndsey Winship - 28 January 2022

Kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa is hypnotically precise in a piece about renewal and transformation inspired by the Hindu god Shiva

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The Hindu god Shiva is an inspiration for aSH, and Indian kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa has a presence so self-possessedly serene as to qualify as godly. Her stillness goes deep, but even when she’s moving there is hypnotic constancy in her circling limbs. Long arms stretch into precision-cut angles but she doesn’t slash or slice the air, it’s more like the air silently parts to make way for her.


Shivalingappa’s remarkable quality of movement has led her to be a muse for Peter Brook, Pina Bausch, Maurice Béjart and now French director Aurélien Bory, who has conceived this solo that Shivalingappa herself choreographed. The dancer is not entirely alone on stage. There’s percussionist Loïc Schild conjuring gentle tremolos and ominous rumbles, and there’s the set, designed by Bory, which is a character in its own right.

A vast sheet of thick metallic paper hangs behind Shivalingappa, the scene coloured a shadowy bronze. The paper begins to ripple and billow, launching forward like a giant beast or wave, threatening to engulf her. Yet it’s entirely possible to believe that Shivalingappa is silently controlling the forces around her.


The sheet becomes an instrument, Schild rhythmically rapping his fingers on it; it’s also a cocoon and a canvas, where Shivalingappa draws circles with what’s essentially a giant pastry brush and then scatters ash across the surface, tracing rings in the dust with her feet. An image is slowly revealed, like a rising sun or a powerful vortex, something mighty and beautiful. aSH is a story of constant transformation and renewal, of destruction and creation, of life’s circularity, and there’s Shivalingappa, without forceful presence or exertion, at the core of all this visual wonder.

Lyndsey Winship


A long-awaited meeting between two choreographs at Montpellier Danse: Bory completes his trilogy of portrait pieces.

Par Thomas Hahn - 28 June 2018

If aSH is a portrait, then Bory has drawn it in Chinese ink

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In 2008 Aurélien Bory met Stéphanie Fuster, now a fully fledged Flamenco dancer, and almost at the same time the contemporary dancer Kaori Ito as well as kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa. He decided to dedicate a piece to each of them by way of a portrait. With Fuster, it was a case of a reunion. And with Plexus, the solo portrait of Kaori Ito, we could see just how far their respective worlds, between dance and circus arts, could be merged through mutual understanding [see our review].

The meeting with Shivalingappa took place in Germany, on the occasion of the Three weeks with Pina festival. Bory saw her performing several pieces of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, including Nefés, which will be shown again in Paris in July (1). But what common ground could there be between Bory and Shivalingappa, who lives between Madras and Paris and is developing a contemporary form of kuchipudi dance? The distant Indian family roots in Bory’s genealogy are not much help, since the sub-continent is not one of the lands he has visited personally. There remain books, mythology, flavours…


aSH, a piece for Shantala Shivalingappa carries in its title a little nod to Pina and condenses in three letters (and two languages) its intent, its subject and the scenographic challenge: Shantala, Shiva and ash, symbol of the life cycle. ‘Shiva is a god, creator and destroyer. Lord of cremation sites, he covers the bodies with ash. Shantala Shivalingappa built her dance on the figure of that god, whose vibration is the rhythm of the world’s expression’, wrote Aurélien Bory.

Starting with the organic links between the performer’s name and that of the Hindu god of dance, for Shantala Shivalingappa is linked to Shiva every day of the year through her practice and her name, the choice was made to create a single character in which are superimposed the dancer, her name and the divinity. And Shivalingappa assumes very articulated and purified poses, supported by kuchipudi, but harking back to prehistoric art as much as contemporary art.

Behind her, an enormous canvas rises up, comes alive, growls, bends, invades the ground and participates in the sound landscape created live by the percussionist Loïc Schild. The dancer seems to be dominated by this super-powerful mass, and at the same time to control its movements and the shadows that invade it, as if directing them by means of an interactive device. Let the ritual begin…


If aSH… is a portrait, then Bory has drawn it in Chinese ink. There is only black and white here, and sometimes the reflection of a solar or lunar light on the enormous canvas that embodies either Shiva or his destructive energy. And Shantala, as a dance warrior, as a Shiva avid for ash, launches herself into a conquest of extreme refinement. She draws with water and white rice powder, starting with an enormous spiral, a mandala which she works with her feet like Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker does with the sand in Fase – Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich.

But can one reveal oneself as a person and artist by embodying a character which imposes itself like Shiva? aSh… only reveals the face of its performer towards the end, and offers us a single and unique – albeit splendid – facet of a choreographer and performer so rich in expression and invention, between tradition and future.

So, we will see in this solo the idea of an outcome, a space of the search for and revelation of a vision, rather than as a projector focused on Shivalingappa. If Fuster’s solo bears the title Qu’est-ce  que tu deviens? [What’s become of you?], the one performed for the first time at the 38th edition of Montpellier Danse could be called: Qu’est-ce que tu voudrais devenir ? [What would you like to become?] Dancer or goddess? Crossing or crossed? Because the enormous canvas often risks swallowing the stage presence of the human performer, who nevertheless resists and emerges from her ordeal illuminated.

Thomas Hahn


The Furious Space


Perec, from the page to the stage : directions for use

Par Rosita Boisseau - 21 July 2016

A hybrid and fertile reading that makes the stage iridescent with signs and meanings

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At Avignon Opera House, Aurélien Bory offers a flexible and fertile interpretation of the essay ‘Espèces d’espaces’ 

Writing, reading, directing. Signing off the space, drawing its lines, leafing through the layers like one scrolls down pages. This intimate relationship between text and performance reveals a magical false bottom to Aurélien Bory’s new piece for five performers, Espæce, conceived under the influence of Georges Perec (1936-1982) and in tribute to him.

By building on the work of the French writer, and in particular his essay Espèces d’espaces – hence the title of the piece, which superimposes the two words – the director has found a perfect accomplice to support his addiction to heavy scenography, experienced as philosophical metaphors for life. It’s all about décor, to be taken literally here in terms of the body drawn into a permanent rush of reactivity and adaptation. Rather than be rapidly ejected from the circuit, better to hone one’s daily capacity for flexibility in order to launch an assault on the phenomenal, massive and original environments (high walls, giant robots, etc.) imagined by Aurélien Bory.
An elastic alphabet

A huge blackboard, white pages, and now the letters and words propel one another in a textual and visual flow that appears inexhaustible. Espæce opens a book which gets bigger and bigger until it colonises the entire stage, thus offering a hybrid and fertile reading that makes the stage iridescent with signs and meanings. Mental landscape and theatrical architecture interlock and slide like a high mobile wall which folds and unfolds like an accordion, composing an elastic alphabet and an equally supple ballet of forms. There are few ways out of this evolving structure, almost animated with an existence of its own, which reconfigures itself ceaselessly. Now as gentle as a dwelling-place, now as aggressive as a trap – sharp angles like those of Berlin’s Jewish Museum designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind – it contains everything and its opposite, by simply turning around on itself.

In this labyrinth sometimes tinged with an absurd touch of the burlesque, the five acrobats, one of whom is a singer, grapple as if competing with the landslides and other shifts with moves as swift as the rollers onto which the wall is screwed. Modest exploits – stretching oneself – are combined with great feats – climbing high up – acrobatics being the strict minimum required to draw rapid and effective responses to unusual physical situations, tests of strength bordering on the dangerous. For the object – the décor – dominates the performers and always dictates its law with Aurélien Bory, a former student of physics and architectural acoustics, as well as juggling, who has headed Compagnie 111 since 2000. He knows how the ball or hammer have it all their own way and fall constantly, whatever one does. It’s up to everyone to create their own rules and momentarily get the upper hand in a losing battle.

Upside down and back-to-front

With Espæce, Aurélien Bory openly expresses his passion for scenography as the artistic base around which the human plays the garlands on top, below, upside down and the back-to-front. The course of the river of life is deployed throughout all the metamorphoses of this unexpected architecture.

Very plastic in its progression, Espæce is not so different from Plan B, conceived in 2003 with Phil Soltanoff, and an absolute success ever since its creation. The sloping rampart wall proved full of hidden steps, removable snares and other concealed compartments. The legend of Sisyphus always lurks in a corner of the stage with Aurélien Bory, who likes oversized imaginary fields for launching an assault as one attacks a summit. Géométrie de caoutchouc (2011) planted a tent beneath the tent and ended up swallowing the acrobats; Les Sept Planches de la ruse (2007) fine-tuned a marvellously precarious equilibrium in a Chinese puzzle.

With Georges Perec as his accomplice, Aurélien Bory, who has frequented his work for over ten years, first launched in 2015 a series of three Brouillons, kinds of lively, light trial gallops, performed in a week, which laid the pillars of Espæce. He wanted to approach the fundamental question of the void, psychic and spatial, which is filled to a greater or lesser extent, throughout life and creation. While the writer worked, among other things, on disappearance – of the letter ‘e’, for example, in the novel entitled, precisely, La Disparition – Bory fills the stage by widening the intervals, expanding the hollows, the faults, to let human fragility vibrate momentarily. He quotes this phrase of Georges Perec: ‘To live is to pass from one space to another while doing your very best not to bump yourself”.


Rosita Boisseau


Aurélien Bory tames spaces

Par Emmanuelle Bouchez - 19 July 2016

With Espaece, Bory puts his name to a fully accomplished work

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With “L’Espaece”, the director and his performers draw from Georges Perec in order to appropriate the world.

Avignon 2016 or the year of large volumes… After Het Land Nod from Antwerp collective FC Bergman, in which the actors are confronted with the high walls of a reconstructed museum, Aurélien Bory, stage designer-cum-circus producer-cum-director has smuggled a towering articulated wall in under the arches of Avignon Opera House. But where the Belgian performers put their money on dramatic effects, Bory and his dance company choose finesse, subtlety and minimalism as a way to exist in this great machine and to reflect their sensitive appropriation of the world.

The subject? “L’espaece”, a semantic contraction [between the French for ‘species’ and ‘spaces’] in reference to Georges Perec’s famous essay, Espèces d’espaces (1973-74, published by Galilée), in which the writer uses the perception of space, even more so than time, as a way of measuring his life. “To live is to pass from one space to another while doing your very best not to bump yourself.” he writes at the end of the foreword. This is a phrase that Aurélien Bory uses in a very fine way at the start of the show: the quotation takes the shape of an “open book”, in the literal sense as it is by moving white books on a grey background of the wall that they compose the phrase letter by letter. Whereas Perec, in his essay, dreams on the page as he did on the level space of his bed, or on the vertical surface of the sides of buildings spotted during his time spent aimlessly wandering the streets of Paris, Bory lets himself move around in all dimensions combined on the stage: width, height and volume…

The man makes the space

He confronts his five performers (two women and three men) with a gigantic and forbidding partition, driven by its own energy, which grates and scrapes as it moves. There’s nothing violent about it, however. The humans negotiate with “the object” as best they can. They rub along with it and outsmart its potential traps. Although one has to lie flat on the ground so the wall skims the buttocks, the pleasing portliness of Olivier Martin-Salvan just won’t fit…and so the thing moves back! Perec/Bory tell us that it is the man (l’espèce) who makes the space, and all of the performers – including the singer Claire Lefilliâtre, who, with her back to the wall, sings snippets of romantic lieder – end up finding their place. By curling up gently, by alighting on their perch like birds.

Aurélien Bory has always been trying, between circus, dance and the plastic arts, to appropriate matter and perspectives, from the hugely successful Plan B (first produced in 2003) to Sans objet (2009) – overly mechanical and less convincing – where the performers danced with mini mechanical diggers. With Espaece, he puts his name to a fully accomplished work. Where the beauty of the installation – this wall-fan has a genuine double-sided personality – complements the human presence of the mischievous (Salvan inhabits this world as a clown) or daredevil (Katell Le Brenn, Guilhem Benoît, Mathieu Desseigne-Ravel) performers. And so poetry wins more and more ground in its theatrical dreamland.

Emmanuelle Bouchez


The games of Georges Perec and the theatre

Par Didier Méreuze - 17 July 2016

An enchanted and enchanting show

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A magician of a form of theatre that blends all the arts, Aurélien Bory interprets Espaces d’espaces in his own way. It is an enchanted and enchanting show.

Lined up in front of a high wall that resembles a giant blackboard, they read, consult each other and reply, in silence, to questions asked and orders given. Words and phrases take shape, traced out through the clever arrangement of books held in their hands. They run, slide, skid, fall and cling to the metal bars descending from arches which throw them into the air, in perpetual movement.

They lean against, throw themselves against, measure themselves against this great back wall which suddenly moves forward, suddenly moves backwards; sometimes vertical, sometimes aslant, constantly reconfiguring the stage. They turn it around, then turn it back again through staggering acrobatic effort. They make it look Piranesian: both a tower and a library at once. Their bodies suspend horizontally from its side, over the void, perched like birds.

From warbling to writing

At one point, a woman indulges in contortion exercises; another, the second woman, begins to sing. The high-pitched voice of a man echoes her, stringing together grand sentimental airs from the operatic repertoire while miming them, partway between a parody of opera and bel canto.

Lastly, after a final appearance of the performers as shadows over a background of brilliant lights, a large screen as sombre as a white page becomes covered with words typed out on a typewriter descending from the arches. Among other things, we can read “ERRE-CRI – ECRIRE – REECRIT” (wrreite – write – rewrite).

UTO (unidentified theatre object)

And so ends Espæce, the most recent extravagance of Aurélien Bory, official inventor of the UTO. And by that I mean Unidentified Theatre Objects, unidentifiable, but always magical, mixing together, in delectable sequence, all the disciplines that can come together on stage: acrobatics, theatre, song, dance…

With the support of three men (Guilhem Benoit, the acrobat; Mathieu Desseigne Ravel, the dancer; Olivier Martin-Savan, the actor and singer) and two women (Katell Lebrenn, the contortionist; Claire Lefilliâtre, the singer), he takes hold of Georges Perec’s book Espaces d’espèces (the show’s title is a contraction of the two words), not just to tell it, but to bring it to life in his own way.

Without looking to adapt it as it is, page by page, he aims to reproduce its structure, pulse, respiration, and spirit, defying all the laws of gravity and balance to give a voice to the bodies, leading to a sense of vertigo.

An enchanted “other world”

In a guise of chaos and disorder, the performance highlights how both the physical and dream world can be brought into question, using the duality of the puzzle and examination of the inner self. Words – bearers of existential reflections on the verb, the book and the memory – are contained within these worlds, laid over the human ‘species’, its place, its trace, the gulf, the void, disappearance…

The performance lasts barely over an hour. Time passes by unseen, as the audience is whisked away by this enchanted ‘other world’. And yet, for a long while after having left the theatre, one expression sticks in your head: “To live is to pass from one space to another while doing your very best not to bump yourself”.

Didier Méreuze



Par Agnès Santi - 30 August 2016

A challenge taken up with skill and sensitivity

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Aurélien Bory gives shape to a touching dramatic adaptation by connecting Georges Perec’s writing and his past on stage. A challenge taken up with skill and sensitivity.

For a producer as audacious as Aurélien Bory, who conceives theatre as an art of space, and enjoys melding various artistic fields – circus, dance and theatre, for example – it is hardly surprising that Georges Perec has become an infinite source of inspiration, with numerous and complex offshoots. Embracing all of the subtlety of this writing which juxtaposes – among others – fictional and autobiographical threads, the touching success of the show comes from Aurélien Bory’s willingness to base his work on the articulations and echoes between the writing, which is linked to diverse formal constraints, and the author’s tragic past. Perec was orphaned at a young age: his father died in battle and his mother was assassinated at Auschwitz: a death without a burial, a life erased like millions of others. Avoiding the pitfalls of illustration, Aurélien Bory has managed to put together a work where the form and the sense overlap and resonate. This is a work that is sometimes deeply unsettling, where the overwhelming and the infinitely subtle, the traditional and the symbolic, cross paths, leaving room for a few humorous touches. To create it, Bory observed “recurrent themes in Perec’s texts, such as the void, gaps, absences and traces, that which we leave behind but also that which we follow.” Although the essay Espèces d’espaces [Species of Spaces], which lists thirteen different species in thirteen chapters, was an excellent introduction to Georges Perec’s universe, it is the collected works of this tremendous writer that form the basis for this patiently thought-out opus, which was preceded by several B(r)ouillons [drafts]: public performances of works in progress. “The subject of this book is not exactly emptiness. It is more about what there is around or inside” said Georges Perec of Species of Spaces.

A dramatic machine overlapping form and sense

The work is titled Espaece: with an extra ‘e’, it superposes ‘espèce’ and ‘espace’ [species and space], as if to indicate that here the human species inhabits the space on stage, in an obstinate and ambitious artistic attempt. An homage to the author and to the book, an object that prevails in a rich imaginary land and helps to support the world, the dramatic machine is composed of four huge moving walls which fold and unfold, swallowing up the performers in the process, much like the “History with a capital ‘H’” which swallowed up the actor’s childhood. The acrobat Guilhem Benoit, the dancer and tightrope walker Mathieu Desseigne Ravel, the contortionist Katell Le Brenn, the opera singer Claire Lefilliâtre and the actor Olivier Martin Salvan bring their talents together to create a moving puzzle that is never finished, marked by a keen sense of absence and emptiness, by a kind of implacable feverishness, forever repeated. This perfectly choreographed journey seems to be the prey of a dangerous form of chance, imposing the forever-present challenge of “avoiding bumping into oneself”, culminating in a magnificent scene when the route is interrupted, where the E (pronounced eux (they) in French) of the dearly departed – the letter E is absent from Perec’s novel La Disparition [A Void] – where a poignant crossword is also sketched out – Georges Perec was an expert crossword complier – and where a sad, disembodied Kaddish resonates. Thanks to the space for invention provided by the theatre, Aurélien Bory, an accomplished artist, breathes life onto the stage.

Agnès Santi


Aurélien Bory, l’espace de l’espèce

Par François Delétraz - 16 September 2016

Visuellement, Bory dessine des tableaux marquants dans un clair-obscur parfaitement maîtrisé

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Aurélien Bory n’est pas du genre à s’asseoir des heures devant une feuille blanche à attendre l’inspiration ! Chez lui tout naît d’une idée forte, qu’elle soit esthétique ou intellectuelle. Chacun de ses ballets devient ensuite l’exploration de cette idée, qu’il triture, détricote et peaufine dans tous les sens. Dès lors, on ne sent jamais chez lui cette impression de vide que peut parfois donner la danse contemporaine.

C’est justement de ce vide dont il est question dans sa dernière pièce : Espæce, une des créations phares du dernier Festival d’Avignon. L’idée aurait germé à la lecture d’Espèces d’espaces de Georges Perec il y a dix ans. Aurélien Bory en a arpenté les lignes et les mots, et transpose aujourd’hui le projet de Perec sur scène: interroger notre environnement quotidien, la chambre, la maison, la rue et les murs qui nous cloisonnent. Espèces d’espaces, Bory l’a résumé en un mot Espæce. La superposition explique sa démarche scénique: remplir le vide. Au début, des lettres projetées sur le fond de scène, puis un immense mur qui va devenir une frontière sans cesse en mouvement.

Ce que Perec révélait de l’espace avec ses mots, Bory le restitue avec ses propres outils : lumières, décors et interprètes inouïs. Trois circassiens, une cantatrice et un comédien montent dans les cintres, se faufilent par une porte dérobée pour composer avec cet espace imposé, «sans jamais se cogner», sur une scène qui n’en finit pas de tourner sur elle-même. « Je cherche l’éphémère et l’éternel », confie le metteur en scène. Ses personnages eux aussi sont animés par un paradoxe: celui de vouloir préserver leurs jardins secrets tout en craignant de rester anonymes.

Visuellement, Bory dessine des tableaux marquants dans un clair-obscur parfaitement maîtrisé. Une surprise en amène une autre ; on passera donc sur quelques redites sans doute volontaires. Le public est sous le charme, heureux d’assister à une pièce originale, à mi-chemin entre théâtre et danse. Le propos est fin, sans pour autant être complexe. Que l’on recherche du divertissement, de la réflexion ou les deux à la fois, on peut y aller sans avoir lu le livre de Perec.

François Delétraz


Aurélien Bory sulle tracce di Perec

Par Giuseppe Videtti - 04 October 2017

Nel teatro si rifà, si ricostruisce. E si dimentica. È arte viva, destinata a morire, a rinascete e rigenerarsi.

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LA VITA, lì fuori, scorre come un film muto. I finestroni dell’edificio industriale incorniciano lo spazio più caro a Aurélien Bory, nella città che culla le sue ardite sperimentazioni teatrali. La Compagnie 111 crea tra le mura del vecchio Théâtre de la Digue, concesso dalla municipalità di Tolosa a un intellettuale che di drammaturgia, filosofia, architettura e fisica ha fatto una sola arte. «Non me l’hanno dato questo spazio, me lo sono preso!», precisa Bory, 45 anni, regista, scenografo e coreografo che dopo il trionfo ad Avignone presenterà per Romaeuropa il suo Espæce — fortemente ispirato al romanzo Specie di spazi di Georges Perec (1936-1982) — al Teatro Argentina il 7 e 8 ottobre. «Volevo inventare uno spazio, proprio perché il mio teatro è arte dello spazio », aggiunge, mostrando fiero il plastico del progetto che entro il 2018 trasformerà quelle antiche mura nel polo d’attrazione delle avanguardie della città rosa.
È proprio l’ossessione per lo spazio che l’ha condotto a Georges Perec e a Specie di spazi.
«Tutta l’esistenza è condizionata dalla relazione tra noi e l’esterno — e intendo relazioni tra gli uomini, degli uomini con la natura, degli uomini con l’universo», spiega. Bory è un pozzo di saggezza, spazia da Aristotele alla Bauhaus e Oskar Schlemmer, che gli hanno ispirato la trilogia sullo spazio ( IJK, Plan B, Plus ou moins l’infini), da Gropius a Klee, da Kandinsky a Heinrich von Kleist, da Bach a Steve Reich, da Calvino a Perec e Valère Novarina «il più grande scrittore di teatro contemporaneo». Solo il nostro Romeo Castellucci (Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio), che lavora a Cesena in uno spazio altrettanto suggestivo, sarebbe in grado di sostenere una conversazione sul teatro tanto erudita. Bory ci legge nel pensiero: «Castellucci è il mio artista preferito, una grande ispirazione. M’incantano le sue riflessioni, il modo in cui si appoggia sulla drammaturgia, le idee originalissime e potenti ».

Cosa dobbiamo aspettarci da “Espaece” ?

«Lo spettacolo è una sovrapposizione — proprio come la parola “espaece” (spazio+specie) — di cose che non stanno bene insieme: il canto lirico che si sovrappone alla danza che si sovrappone al circo che si sovrappone al vuoto del teatro, che a sua volta è una sovrapposizione, nel senso che noi continuiamo a scrivere sulle tracce di spettacoli precedenti. Nel teatro si rifà, si ri-costruisce, si ri-presenta. E si dimentica. È un’arte viva, e come tale è destinata a morire, a rinascere e rigenerarsi — a ri-scrivere sulle orme del passato. Espaece è uno spettacolo sulle tracce; Perec ha cercato nella scrittura tutte le tracce della sua storia, di sua madre e dei parenti scomparsi a Auschwitz quando aveva cinque anni. È stata quella la ragione per cui è diventato scrittore. Scrivere è far sopravvivere qualcosa, vincere la morte, sconfiggere il tempo. Volevo applicare il vuoto interiore di Perec, causato dell’assenza della madre, allo spazio scenico. All’inizio proietto sul muro una frase, riprendendo fisicamente il libro: “Vivere è passare da uno spazio all’altro cercando il più possibile di non farsi male”».

Sembra il manifesto dell’incomunicabilità, Antonioni avrebbe adorato.

«È la frase chiave del romanzo e della drammaturgia dello spettacolo; Antonioni ma anche Chaplin, ci sono tracce di entrambi nell’opera di Perec. La vita deteriora l’essere umano, lo danneggia. Mi fa pensare alla filosofia di Jacques Derrida, ogni istante della vita è sopravvivenza, fuga dalla morte. A partire da questa unica citazione, lo spettacolo è fatto di spazi che s’allontanano progressivamente come su Google Earth — camera, appartamento, palazzo, via, quartiere, città, regione, stato, mondo. Quel che Perec vuole comunicarci è che la scrittura è uno spazio; quel che io voglio comunicare è che lo spazio è una scrittura».

Perec è ispirazione e ossessione: ne ha seguito le tracce, ha persino voluto incontrare sua moglie, che è morta l’anno scorso.

«Ma ha fatto in tempo a vedere lo spettacolo. Una lettura non è sufficiente per scoprire la profondità di Specie di spazi, non è un romanzo come un altro. È un libro che va contato, decifrato. Sono ossessionato da Perec come Perec è ossessionato dalle cifre, ce ne sono di ricorrenti: 11, 2, 43 — la data della deportazione di sua madre a Auschwitz. Con lui non ci si annoia, quando pensi di averlo scoperto ti porta per mano in un altro posto».

Chi sono i protagonisti di “Espaece” ?

«La specie che cerca di abitare lo spazio (quello del teatro), vuoto, inospitale, niente porte né finestre, tristemente illuminato, una scatola nera. È la scomparsa della specie nello spazio ma più sorprendentemente la scomparsa dello spazio stesso».

Sarà molto esigente con la sua compagnia per realizzare una forma di teatro così fisicamente impegnativa.

«Infatti, la prima cosa che m’interessa è il lavoro fisico, lo pretendo anche dalla cantante lirica, Claire Lefilliâtre, e da un attore di parola come Olivier Martin Salvan, che sono in scena con un ballerino, un contorsionista e un acrobata con i quali lavoro da anni per esplorare la fisica del teatro e la verticalità, una dimensione in cui gli artisti del circo sono perfettamente a loro agio. Claire esegue il Winterreise di Schubert (in riferimento a Viaggio d’inverno, viaggio d’inferno scritto da Perec con una data scolpita in mente, 11 febbraio 1943, quando il treno coi deportati partì alla volta di Auschwitz)».

Lei ha studiato fisica e architettura acustica, ha esordito come giocoliere e acrobata, poi che è accaduto?

«Mi sono reso conto che non avevo il fisico adatto per continuare. Il movimento degli oggetti ha influenzato tutto il mio lavoro, è stato naturale passare da giocoliere a scenografo. Il mio primo desiderio fu la musica, il rock, suonavo da adolescente, che gioia!».

E il teatro? È sofferenza?

«Un po’… in realtà ha molto a che fare con la morte. Come dice Georges Perec: tutto è destinato a scomparire, noi prima di tutto, è solo questione di tempo. Io rappresento il tentativo disperato di lasciare dietro di noi una traccia, un solco, un rottame, una piccola luce nell’immenso buio metafisico ».

Giuseppe Videtti



Defying Reality

Par Alex Parry - 01 December 2014

Ancient religious tales of North Africa, overcoming gravitational limits, voyaging into the universe: South Australia is in for a Moroccan astronomical treat as the Adelaide Festival of Arts presents "Azimut".

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A family acrobatics show drawing on concepts of physics, technology, spirituality and culture in a theatrical playground, Azimut is set to connect Australian audiences with the athletic and religious traditions of Morocco’s Berber culture – perhaps a first encounter for many viewers. Famed French director Aurélien Bory works with acrobats and musicians from the company, Le Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, to create magical visual effects and challenge our understanding of creative and physical limits. 

Speaking while on tour from his hotel on the island of La Réunion, Bory says he is full of enthusiasm to bring Azimut to Australia for the first time. 


 “We are very excited to be a part of the Adelaide Festival in 2015 and present this work to an audience on the other side of the world,” he says. “My intention with this work is not only to represent and promote the Moroccan Berber rituals and traditions, but to use the physical skills of the artists to connect with other forms of art, where the theatre space becomes a plane for the acrobats to fly.” 

 It is not the first time Bory has toured works inspired by the expertise and physical skill of Moroccan acrobats. Bory encountered the artists training on the beach in their home country more than 10 years ago. His immediate attraction to the way they moved and the ancient Berber culture led him to create, along with director Sanae El Kamouni, Le Groupe acrobatique de Tanger and their first production, Taoub, in 2004. 

From an early age in Morocco, these artists train morning until night, living and breathing art and traditions spanning many generations. They are often referred to as the “children of Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa”, a 16th century Sufi thinker who later became known as the Patron Saint of Moroccan Acrobats. 

 Azimut is the Sufi word referring to the space between earth and sky – which, Bory says, can be related to our journey of life: the everlasting thirst to reach the top. As he developed this work with the artists, Bory was led to ask himself such questions as: “Is there a sky to reach, or are we already in it?” And, “When we are striving to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, is there little point in connecting with something outside of us – is it about what is inside?” 

“In the legend of Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa, when the wise man reached the heavens, he looked back at Earth and men, and settled upon going back. Among others, his path led me to embrace the return motif as the core of the writing,” Bory says. “We can reach what we believe to be the sky, only to realise that all we can really do is live on Earth. But it is this desire for escape and for flight that drives us.” 

Azimut’s artists move and play in ways that defy reality – including walking on the ceiling and using a 17th century flying machine. The acrobats’ bodies are tools to explore cultural and scientific possibilities, constructing enormous formations based on old ritual symbols and performing incredible feats on a giant metal grid. Bory uses technology, sound and fabrics to produce fantastic sensory experiences – but he doesn’t want viewers to think too deeply about how they are produced. 

“We see the lights, the formations, the imagery and we know it’s not real – but we have to believe. We have to believe in the magic of theatre because that is what drives our imagination,” he says. 

Like many artforms globally, Bory says the survival of Morocco’s acrobatic culture is indeed under threat, and gratefully acknowledges the special feat of being able to share this with audiences on the other side of the world. He also credits corporate sponsorship as being essential in enabling him to realise his artistic vision and to help make Azimut available to tour to audiences worldwide. 

Closer to his native France, Aurélien Bory is also the founder of the Toulouse-based theatre Company 111, which has toured internationally with works such as Plan B, More or less infinity, and IJK. While his genre of theatre has not always been easily definable by global audiences, his skill in combining performing and visual artforms with technology and science to stimulate the senses and imagination has been widely celebrated. Bory’s creative direction is inspired by ideas that are universal rather than specific to a location or culture. Prior to his life in artistic direction, Bory studied physics and architectural acoustics – inspiration perhaps, to create a new category of performance. 

Alex Parry


Acrobats in suspended animation

Par Laura Cappelle - 25 May 2014

Bory draws on the religious dimension of Moroccan acrobatics to explore the boundary between earth and sky, and does so with his customary visual invention.

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Cartwheels are more likely to evoke playground fun than serious artistry, but in the centyries-old tradition of Moroccan acrobats, this simplest of moves is akin to a ritual. Halfway through Aurélien Bory’s Azimut, seven men from the Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger walk to the side of the stage and start slowly turning cartwheels, one by one, landing with feline grace : as they pick up the pace, their limbs blur, drawing immaculate circles in the air.

It’s a mesmerising image that brings to mind other Sufi performers, such as Turckey’s whirling dervishes, but Azimut only hints at the troup’s potential. The Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger was co-founded by Bory and director Sanae El Kamouni a decade ago as a contemporary outlet for acrobats who trained on a tanger beach. Bory directed their first production, Taoub, and the company’s efforts to combine traditional virtuosity and modernity drew the attention of programmers.

Azimut, new last autumn and presented this month at the Théâtre du Rond-Point, is in some ways a more mature creation. Acrobatic stunts have given way to a subdued atmosphere. Bory draws on the religious dimension of Moroccan acrobatics to explore, we’re told, the boundary between earth and sky, and does so with his customary visual invention. With just a black backdrop and a metal grid initially hidden behind it, he plays with gravity and perspective to dazzling effect, helped by Arno Veyrat’s dusky lighting.

Acrobats curl up and nest in fabric folds mid-air, or walk upside down on the celling ; elsewhere, as they climb on to each other to form a human pyramid (another moroccan tradition) and suddenly vanish as if through traps, you wonder if you’re actually watching them from above.

Modest narratives emerge, too : a pregnant woman is led onstage by a man, and later the entire group crawls between her legs, emerging like newborns. Two musicians who drift in and out contribute plaintive, haiku-like songs in Arabic and Berber.

As Azimut unfolds, however, Bory tips the scales against movement. He has worked extensively at the crossroads of circus, dance and theatre, but is rightly credited here as director and stage designer rather than dance-maker. Aside from the cartwheel sequence, the tableaux are mostly static : what Azimut lacks is a choreographer who can tap further into the acrobats’ nimble physicality. As they navigate Bory’s optical illusions, their weighlessness belies their apparent ordinariness : they deserve more of a challenge.

Laura Cappelle


Azimut’s effects on the senses

Par Gilles Renault - 09 June 2014

Aurélien Bory is a remarkably talented artist who has the power to surprise and move his audience at almost every one of his performances.

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Perhaps we should avoid shouting it from the rooftops, in case he gets too big for his boots one of these days – which would be a great shame – but Aurélien Bory is a remarkably talented artist who has the power to surprise and move his audience at almost every one of his performances. And yet, the general public would find it difficult to identify this tall man, with his thinning hair and composed smile; this man of the shadows who does make rare appearances onstage, at the final curtain, alongside those that he directs in these hybrid projects that, for ten years now, have forged his reputation. Such is the case these days at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris where, after an hour of zipping through the air, we spot him next to the ten or so members of the Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger [acrobatic group of Tangiers] – and two traditional musicians that complete this impressive team. Ten years after Taoub, staged over 300 times across the world, Azimut, the performance created in September 2013 in Aix-en-Provence, is the second collaboration between this director, originally from Colmar, France and based in Toulouse (where he founded the Compagnie 111 theatre company in 2000), and the Moroccan troupe. In the latter’s human pyramids, Bory sees a “way of getting closer to the sky”. Equally, he associates its leaps with the “outline a circle”. The overall impression is a return, according to him, “to the spiritual origins linked to Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa, a 15th century Sufi sage”. And Bory extrapolates around “the question of the “path”” – azimut refers to the Arab etymology of the word – and “the motive of a return to mother earth as a backbone of existence for one who, having reached the sky but looking down at the earth and its people, would have rather come back to life”.

Styles. To dispel any uncertainty, we must specify however that there is no shame in not understanding a thing that Azimut is trying to communicate: letting oneself be (trans)ported by the succession of scenes is easily enough to bring the audience a sweet feeling of rapture.

Although less immediately spectacular than Plan B, the (sloping) show that Bory revealed in 2003, or Plexus, the fascinating high-tech showcase that he used to develop the choreographer and dancer Kaori Ito at Les Abbesses theatre in the winter, Azimut threads various styles together, extending once again the notions of circus (it was in fact by sticking his head into the Lido circus school in Toulouse in the early nineties that Bory came to be moved by gravitational grace), music, theatre and dance.

A highly polished work that plays with the notions of time and space, sometimes to the extent that it confines the sensory experience, Azimut makes hampered masculine silhouettes burst from the shadows, which go on to climb up and down surrounded by large canvas bags, in a vertical ballet that is both strange and fascinating. Later, a mass of bodies, by what means we do not know, takes off from the stage. Or, as he’s climbing in the spheres of enchantment, a man moves about on all fours, but with his head tilted downwards, then becomes flattened to the top of the structure (but how is it that his clothes don’t float?): it is the height of absurdity.

Illusions. Once again, Aurélien Bory maximises the subdued lighting to reveal essential relations in these mirages of the imagination that he shapes. An organiser of illusions, for this display he has invented an unusual structure, a kind of immense metal grill that takes up the back of the stage and which only reveals itself – in the true sense – towards the end of the performance. As much as Géométrie de Caoutchouc, created in 2011, was a show where the performers got tangled up in a restrictive space (a tent, inside the one where the audience was watching the performance), where they didn’t really know on which rope to pull, this frame reveals itself to be synonymous of upward movement. It is sensational.


In addition to his own creations, Aurélien Bory, the man behind some sensational encounters, is increasing his collaborative efforts. As such, in March the stage designer subtly took part in the new performance of Vincent Delerm, an extension of his album Les Amants Parallèles, at the Déjazet theatre. On 4 October, Aurélien Bory will also be one of the attractions of the Paris Nuit Blanche (white night – an all-night arts festival), which is under the artistic direction of José-Manuel Gonçalvès, the director of CentQuatre. His contribution will become part of a “performance-trail”. Details will be announced shortly.

Gilles Renault



Par Rosita Boisseau - 03 June 2014

Beautiful, soft and mysterious, this is a performance that leaves you speechless.

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Beautiful, soft and mysterious, this is a performance that leaves you speechless, but also makes you want to talk about it, while managing both to soothe and pack a punch. Azimut, directed by Aurélien Bory for the Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger [acrobatic group of Tangiers], has all of the ingredients for invention and emotion without ever overdoing it when it comes to the multiple scenes that he makes unfold.

And yet there is an avalanche of scenes, each one more admirable than the last. Bodies fall and rise, appear and disappear. Levitation is the key word of this stage, where accessories and performers form a strange unit, relying on obscurity to keep their sophisticated technical underside hidden.

The spectacular supernatural world of Azimut, with its shadows, ghosts and spirits, perfectly serves the cause of the irrational and of magical thinking, such as they flow through everyday life in Morocco. They find an unusual outlet between circus, theatre and live music in this family-friendly ceremony. In the footsteps of Sidi Ahmed Ou Moussa, a 15th century Sufi sage and patron saint of Moroccan acrobats, Azimut (from the Arabic as-samt, meaning “path”), as its title indicates, has walked the path while exploring its rather more eccentric side (azimuté in Bory’s mother tongue means to be crazy, mad).

The impact of this group of acrobats of nine men and one woman – a second woman takes part in the performance without directly participating in the circus figures – shines in the misleadingly simple human constructions. A chain of people climb up onto each other’s shoulders and end by weaving a never-ending garland; bodies are bound together to face up to the challenge. Accompanied by two singers and traditional musicians, all of Azimut’s human architecture, both massive and vulnerable, conveys a community, its weight, its protection, and an enveloping cocoon.

The basic principles of Aurélien Bory’s work provide an interesting point of focus. The director’s addiction to weighty stage design has become one of his calling cards. A mobile wall supported Plan B (2003), much as the fabric of a circus tent did for Géométrie de caoutchouc (2011)… Here he has devised a metal grill, a hypnotic criss-cross suspended at the back of the stage that makes all of his strategies possible. The only other thing he needs is quite simply a forest of cables that vibrate in the dark to illuminate a fire of sensations.

Is it the humanity and culture of Moroccan acrobats that breathed such life into the work of Aurélien Bory? He has already proven, in shows dedicated to performers such as Erection (2003) for Pierre Rigal and Plexus (2012) for Kaori Ito, that he knows, with empathy, how to amplify the talent of others while strengthening his own writing.

Aurélien Bory met the acrobats of Tangiers in 2003, three years after the creation of his Toulouse-based theatre company. With them he staged Taoub (2004) to great public acclaim. Azimut seems to be following suit. Tightly entwined with the Hammich family, whose members have been acrobats for seven generations, this is a significant milestone for the troupe. Bory likes to say that “this collaboration is the incarnation of Baraka. For those who have been touring the world for ten years; and for me because this encounter has taken a huge place in my life”.

Rosita Boisseau


Aurélien Bory fait voler Tanger

Par Philippe Noisette - 03 October 2013

La poésie visuelle d’Aurélien Bory fait mouche.

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L’histoire est autant familiale qu’artistique : le Groupe acrobatique de Tanger a un jour croisé la trajectoire d’Aurélien Bory, un des représentants du nouveau cirque. Ces jeunes pousses, plus habituées à se produire sur la plage que dans des théâtres, se lancent alors dans l’aventure de « Taoub » sous la direction du Toulousain Bory. La Fondation BNP Paribas accompagne les interprètes dans cette aventure singulière, qui entamera une tournée de plus de deux ans. Un second opus, « Chouf Ouchouf » voit le jour : à chaque fois, les acrobates, tenants d’une tradition faite de roues et de pyramide humaine mains à mains, remettent leur savoir en jeu.

« Azimut », qui les voit pour la seconde fois dirigés par Aurélien Bory, est un accomplissement. Dans un décor clair-obscur constitué de lourds sacs pendants, les acrobates se glissent marchant sur la paroi du décor. Plus tard, on les verra escalader un quadrillage géant, comme autant de personnages sur une feuille de dessin vierge. Aurélien Bory semble avoir évacué la seule acrobatie virtuose au profit de scènes de genre comme cet accouchement à répétition ou ses pauses statuaires, les corps pris dans la toile de fond. 

Pour autant, « Azimut » n’est pas déconnecté du réel : on y entend des chants arabes, on y devine des silhouettes de fous, comme ces individus que la société moderne voudrait cacher. Lorsqu’un des artistes du Groupe acrobatique de Tanger évolue renversé, agrippé au plafond, la poésie visuelle d’Aurélien Bory fait mouche. On verra encore des corps défiant l’apesanteur, flottant dans l’espace de la scénographie. « Le saut est, pour l’acrobate, la tentative sans cesse répétée du vol », résume Aurélien Bory.

Grand frere artistique

Créateur prolifique, il sait aussi donner aux autres, que ce soit le Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, les acteurs de l’Opéra de Dalian ou la danseuse japonaise Kaori Ito. On sent à chacun de ses rendez-vous une écoute rare et généreuse. Comme autant de familles, dont il serait le grand frère capable de révéler la fibre artistique de chacun. Surtout, en s’investissant de cette manière, ce créateur permet à chacun de repenser son art. « Azimut » en est la preuve parfaite. Aurélien Bory a couvé cette production plusieurs semaines à Aix-en-Provence, où a eu lieu la première. Parti pour une série de représentations jusqu’au mois de juin (la troupe passera alors par le théâtre du Rond-Point à Paris), le Groupe acrobatique de Tanger n’a pas fini de nous surprendre.

Philippe Noisette



Plexus at Sadler’s Wells

Par Naomi Joseph - 25 January 2015

One can’t help but leave feeling spellbound at this stunning display of artistic investigation by Aurélien Bory and Kaori Ito.

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The room is plunged into a complete and claustrophobic darkness. Slowly the figure of Kaori Ito is illuminated standing against a billowing sheet. Ito then fixes a microphone to her body allowing the audience to become aware of the finely tuned mechanics that form it; the rhythm of her heart and the regularity of her breath, Ito’s Plexus.1615

Plexus is part of an on-going series of portraits by Bory that aim to investigate individual female dancers. Plexus refers to the muscles’ inner system: the interlacing network of blood vessels or nerves. While tonight’s Plexus is an exploration of Japanese dancer Kaori Ito’s anatomy, it is also an exploration of how her body has been formed by dance – how experiences have intertwined to produce the Ito of today. This is the intention of the show’s director, French visual artist and choreographer Aurélien Bory.

Bory is known for his pieces that incorporate stunning design; Plexus delivers on this front as Ito disappears into the curtain that, as it swallows her, falls to reveal a floating cube of taught strings, a space that confines the dancer.

A proliferation of voices is experienced in the piece as Bory explores how Ito has been informed by her collaborations with other choreographers. Ito is trapped in her prison of strings moving in fantastic abrupt phrases – floating, thrashing, pausing in wonderful shapes – and as if not by her own volition. She is portrayed as a vehicle through which choreographers voice their visions, a puppet whose strings are unseen. Through being a muse for a series of contemporary choreographers such as Alain Patel, Angelin Prelijocaj and James Thierrée, Ito has developed.

While Ito and the cube are enough to amaze, Bory’s use of sound design, which is created by Ito’s interaction with the strings and movement of the cube, and light projection are also ingenious. A stamp of her feet and a thud echoes through the audience; a change of light and Ito disappears. The intertwining of these elements is the grand illusion of it all as Ito is simultaneously master and subject. It is unclear where one begins and the other ends. While it is an environment that limits her and affects her dance it is also an environment that she acts upon and it she who creates. She is equal with it, as sound, staging, lighting and dancer intertwine seamlessly to create a visual masterpiece.

One can’t help but leave feeling spellbound at this stunning display of artistic investigation by Aurélien Bory and Kaori Ito.

Naomi Joseph


Aurélien Bory cuts straight to the heart with Plexus.

Par Philippe Noisette - 22 December 2014

Playing with slowness as well as risk, Kaori Ito manages to carry us into her world.

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Plexus is a forest made of 5,000 nylon threads that one would not mind getting lost in. It is inhabited by a rare dancer, Kaori Ito, a little Japanese nugget of talent, to whom our attention was first drawn in performances by Philippe Decouflé then James Thierrée. All it took for the birth of this graphic poem that is delighting the whole of France was for Aurélien Bory to meet her.

After this second run in Paris – and while awaiting dates that stretch as far as London – doubt has been definitively dispelled: Bory is a genius when it comes to forms. He admits having thought up several “constrictive” mechanisms for this living portrait. We are reminded of his sloping stages and scenography that sent the actors climbing up the theatre walls. For this marvellously-titled project Plexus, he imagined a puppet on strings that looked like Kaori Ito.

In the end, the director removed the articulated doll and kept the threads. Kaori Ito plays with them, upside down and back-to-front, while appearing to appear/disappear too. She seems suspended out of the reach of gravity. Her dwelling place has the fragility of an origami model (those Japanese folded papers), and the beautiful look of fantasy cinema, like those Asian films where the main characters fight by flying, literally. But in Plexus the leading special effect is Ito herself… Firstly we are bowled away by the light and sound environment that clothes Plexus and its soloist, and then by the dance itself, which seems to be constantly evolving. Playing with slowness as well as risk, Kaori Ito manages to carry us into her world. Some will see an unusual gravity in this solo exercise – the approach of death – and others a sketch of a female artist who is forever reinventing herself.

A song of love

Above all Aurélien Bory once again demonstrates his taste for collaboration: with his dance company he has created performances with the Chinese dancers of the Dalian Opera, the Acrobatic Group of Tangiers and flamenco dancer Stéphanie Fuster. As for Kaori Ito, she is as at home with the Ballets C. de la B.  (contemporary ballets of Belgium) as with the actor Olivier Martin Salvan, who she performed with in funny duo Religieuse à la fraise this summer in Avignon. Plexus is a pinnacle of intelligence in the career paths of the two artists – paths that traverse disciplines, moving from dance to contemporary circus and from theatre to performance in a single, magical twist. Aurélien Bory and Kaori Ito cut straight to the heart once again. Plexus resembles them, a song of love.

Philippe Noisette


Retrato de bailarina en las cuerdas

Par Rosalia Gomez - 29 March 2014


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Aurélien Bory, creador multidisciplinar y viejo conocido de este teatro, regresó anoche con un retrato femenino.

Plexus, en efecto, es un impresionante retrato en tres dimensiones de la bailarina Japonesa Kaori Ito. La unión de ambos es sencillamente asombrosa. Él le aporta todo lo que sabe de imágenes -que es muchísimo- y una dramaturgia que la lleva casi a la narración, al cuento fantástico se podría decir, ayudado por una iluminación prodigiosa y por una efectivísima banda sonora.

Pero lo que podría ser una exhibición de técnica o una hermosa instalación artística, se convierte en puro teatro gracias a la verdad, al cuerpo de la mujer, de la bailarina que acepta los límites que él le impone: un increíble habitáculo de 8 x 8 metros atravesado en vertical por miles de delgadas cuerdas de barco. Ito, que comienza haciéndonos sentir con un micro sus latidos, sus vibraciones, su vida en suma, es parida hacia el cuadrilátero por un inmenso útero de tela y, una vez en él, se desnuda para mostrarnos su peripecia existencial.

Poco a poco va trascendiendo la prisión que la quiere petrificar, como un insecto en el ámbar, y se hace cada vez más fuerte. Dejando atrás quién sabe cuántas tradiciones orientales, pisa con fuerza la tierra hasta moverla, abre la maleza con golpes certeros y se eleva a lo más alto sin necesidad de huir. Fantástica.

Rosalia Gomez


Plexus casts a spell over the stage at Abbesses Theatre in Paris.

Par Rosita Boisseau - 16 January 2014

A mobile stage, five thousand Nylon threads and the mirage takes shape.

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A fine jewel of optical theatre which is a cross between magic, the art of puppetry and cinema.

A black hole, a forest, a cyclone. A woman, a puppet, a ghost. Plexus, a solo devised as a coming-of-age tale by stage director Aurélien Bory for Japanese dancer Kaori Ito, casts a spell over the stage at Abbesses Theatre in Paris. In the rain or dazzled by an electric light, we follow the journey of a woman who fights against the elements to, ultimately, become a more coherent part of them.

With Plexus, a hollowed-out portrait of Kaori Ito, Aurélien Bory produces a fine jewel of optical theatre which is a cross between magic, the art of puppetry and cinema. With a mobile stage and five thousand Nylon threads, the mirage takes shape. Under the bright lights, the show’s textures inverse and metamorphose. Hard becomes soft, the immobile suddenly gathers speed, and metal explodes into jets of light. The luxurious stage dressing and design of Plexus sometimes succeeds in suggesting an organic, cosmic environment, a hollow space in which the female character can also turn herself into wood or smoke. And it is at the crossroads of these universes – at first sight incompatible – that this show, almost a performance-installation, finds its incomparable charm.

This solo provides the audience member with the perfect platform for an ideal portrait of Kaori Ito. She was discovered in 2003 in Tokyo, an insect-like woman with red hair, in Philippe Decouflé’s show Iris. Since then, this 34-year-old artist, trained in classical dance from the age of 5, has pursued elegant partnerships with the likes of Angelin Preljocaj, James Thierrée, Alain Platel and Denis Podalydès.

She has also been choreographing her own shows since 2008. And here she is in Plexus, a puppet-woman who frees herself by taking a journey through the skies. Under the influence of Japanese Shinto mythologies, the earth-dweller with iron boots also lives surrounded by ghosts. The history of the Sun Goddess, who disappears into a cave, leaving the planet in darkness, surely spoke to Aurélien Bory, influencing the idea for a cage of wires and the general atmosphere of the show.

After Questcequetudeviens?, the delicate and subtle portrait of flamenco dancer Stéphanie Fuster that he created in 2008, Aurélien Bory persists in a miniaturist vein. He counter-balances his fondness for more solid group productions while affirming his talent for the use of stage props.

Whether it is the “trap wall” of Plan B (2003), his first success and still on tour, or the marquee cloth of Géométrie de caoutchouc (2011), Bory confronts the space first of all. A former student of physics and spatial architectural acoustics, he devises scenographic landscapes that are a determining factor of the performance, on which he can peg his stage director-cum-juggler’s gestures.  An existential airlock, a power struggle, a philosophical metaphor: these settings pin down various themes and issues by generating a theatre of situations, images and gestures that are different every time. Although the choreography proves to be a little repetitive in Plexus, it hits the nail on the head when depicting the fight for freedom and identity that marks Kaori Ito’s journey.

Rosita Boisseau


Right in the “Plexus”

Par Marie-Christine Vernay - 12 January 2014

A manipulated mechanical doll, her joints seem to have been broken, her limbs shake about before conquering the space, hauling themselves up on invisible apparatus.

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Aurélien Bory, heavily inspired by the circus, is staging a solo for the Japanese artist Kaori Ito at Abbesses theatre. A visual delight.

Aurélien Bory has always seemed as if in a dream, even though he can’t have a moment to spare with six shows on tour (1). However, under the airs of Pierrot Lunaire, this handyman – who doesn’t shy away from any obstacle in order to invent fairytale imaginary landscapes – is hard at work. He was born in 1972, and has several family ties in Guiana, a country he’s never visited although his shows have been on tour from Europe to Bangkok. Before finding the precious material needed to fuel his universe in the circus and dance, Aurélien Bory was destined for the theatre. But the stage director didn’t find the space he needed there, and so turned to other disciplines. After having founded Compagnie 111 in 2000 in Toulouse, the town where he set himself up while continuing his work as an associate artist at the Grand T theatre in Nantes (a position he has held since 2011), he continued travelling to discover other forms of expertise.

Acrobatics. In 2004 he worked with Moroccan acrobats and his show Taoub led to the creation of the Tangier Acrobatic Group. This year, he is back for another round with Azimut, still centred on Moroccan acrobatics. Azimuté in Bory’s mother tongue means to be crazy, mad, but this is one director who traces clean lines in all of his pieces. The emotion and aesthetic shock that was Les Sept Planches de la Ruse, created in China with artists from the Dalian Opera (including several retirees), is still fresh in our minds. Everything relied on imbalance, palpable danger and a meticulous strategy, so that the lightest weight didn’t cause a definitive catastrophe.

The same can be said for Plexus, composed specially for the Japanese dancer and choreographer Kaori Ito. In order to express his immeasurable love for people, their shapes and their inner space, Aurélien Bory has been trying his hand at portrait painting. He started by writing for the flamenco dancer Stéphanie Fuster in 2008, and repeated the experience again in Paris at Abbesses Theatre, with the tailor-made solo for Kaori Ito, created in 2012 but rarely staged. Here again, don’t expect a conventional approach. Although the dancer is the stage director’s model, there is nothing muse-like about her, nor does he use her as a simple blank canvas. Aurélien Bory concentrates much more heavily on the essence of being than on overly prescriptive aesthetic canons. In complete osmosis with the performer, he paints a portrait of a woman formed by classical dance from the age of 5, who also leaves her country to discover the unknown, with Alain Platel, Angelin Preljocaj and Philippe Decouflé, among others, until she is experienced enough to devise her own choreographies.

Balancing. In Plexus this entire path can be traced, all of these experiences that have traversed her body. The solo begins with amplified heartbeats and breaths: for the most part before a black curtain that will disappear to leave space for a balancing structure woven from a thousand threads. In this spider’s web, Kaori Ito plays a Spiderwoman who is nothing like a heroine. A manipulated mechanical doll, her joints seem to have been broken, her limbs shake about before conquering the space, hauling themselves up on invisible apparatus. She floats, like a black angel descending from the sky. A bird trapped in a cage, from which she can escape only by turning into a ghost, the dancer uses the web to play the harp on a delicate score, until she dies away. Although we still think we can hear the thumping in her plexus, she has abandoned her human form, almost virtual, a character for an iPad application. It is here, at this crossroads between the real and the hologram, that she joins her ancestors according to the Japanese tradition. She is now just a shadow that frolics in the cage, laughing in vibrant harmony with the lost souls.

Technically irreproachable, and superb from the point of view of form, this solo for an experienced harpist is a poem written in black ink. Kaori Ito was able to break the marionette that controlled her. The model stole the lead from the portrait painter, who willingly allowed her to do so.

(1) Azimut for the Acrobatic Group of Tangier, Plexus for Kaori Ito, Géométrie de caoutchouc, Sans objet, Qu’est-ce que tu deviens? for Stéphanie Fuster, and Plan B with stage director Phil Soltanoff.

Marie-Christine Vernay


Rubber Geometry

The Rule of Art: Aurélien Bory Interview

Par John Ellingsworth - 26 October 2011

Amid the bustle of Festival Circa, Compagnie 111 director Aurélien Bory talks to John Ellingsworth about new work Geometrie de Caoutchouc, science fiction and the posthuman, mathematics and art, the attraction of circus, and bodies becoming space

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Amid the bustle of Festival Circa, Compagnie 111 director Aurélien Bory talks to John Ellingsworth about new work Geometrie de Caoutchouc, science fiction and the posthuman, mathematics and art, the attraction of circus, and bodies becoming space

Inside the vast dark tent is another tent, a one-third replica, lit from within by green, suffusing light. From four sides the audience watch it, the miniature, as figures press the material out — silhouettes the shape of a man, a woman, a bird, swimming up and drifting down. It takes them some time to emerge from their shelter; and when they do, they do so slowly. The motionless head and shoulders of a woman glide silently out from under the hem of the tent, as though on a conveyor, then retract. Others follow, climbing fully into open air. They are new humans, moving like young birds navigating a slope on foot, ungainly and unaware, as yet, of their inborn capacity. Their movement is rapid and halting, their bodies still in factory condition, flexible and unworn. They meet in ones and twos at the edges of the tent and then, with much trouble, climb the slick curves to stand atop it. With nowhere to go, they turn their attention to the material beneath their feet…


The director Aurélien Bory has been making work with circus artists for a little over a decade now — mostly under the aegis of the company he founded with acrobat Olivier Alenda in 2000, Compagnie 111 — and yet Géométrie de caoutchouc, his latest piece, is the first to be performed inside a circus tent. Technically, at times, it’s performed inside two tents, with the audience watching and surrounding, on rectangular banks of seating placed on four sides, a scaled-down replica of the venue they occupy. As a feat of matryoshkan set design, the staging gives a first indication of Géométrie’s intention to situate itself in a disruptive relationship with the traditional idea of the chapiteau as an icon of circus, but then Bory is not, and has never been, a traditional circus director.


Since the foundation of Compagnie 111 and debut piece IJK — an acoustic and spatial extrapolation of the fundamental aspects of juggling — Aurélien Bory has made a name for himself with a series of large-scale works that explore the properties of materials and spaces to create a kind of living scenography or architectural puppetry: in Les sept planches de la ruse fourteen Chinese acrobats animated a moveable set of geometric shapes inspired by the Tangram; in Sans Objet the stage was dominated by a towering industrial robot arm (formerly part of a factory-line that assembled cars); and in Taoub, his collaboration with the Moroccan collective Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, the changing set formed and reformed from a single sheet of fabric. In Géométrie de caoutchouc, which premiered at Le Grand T in Nantes before heading to Auch and Festival Circa, it is the tent itself that comes to life: once the performers have emerged from inside the replica, the ropes tying it down are disengaged and the canvas flies up like a genie or rushing god, billowing and settling high above. Its face, squarish and pale, not unlike the face of a colossal heavenly owl, is animated by two metal discs with a transfixing gaze.


Thinking of this moment of startling animation, I first ask Bory, when I meet him at Circa, what the creative impetus was behind Géométrie de caoutchouc. Was he working with the tent as a rich, historic symbol, or simply with the physical properties of its material — the ways it moves, reacts, rests? ‘It was part of my interest to take an architectural space that is very well-known,’ answers Bory, ‘and to make it so that very soon there is not this idea of the tent as a symbol, but just the idea of the space itself and the relationship between the actors and the space. I’m very much more accustomed to theatre spaces, but in all my shows I try to start with questions about the space. I take the stage as very important and think about that, and all my work is around space: theatre seen as the art of space. Sometimes I am asked, Where is the humanity in your pieces? And I say I try to put humanity in the space — the architectures in Les sept planches de la ruse are alive; the space in Géométrie is a kind of… something. At the beginning it is more or less static, but it becomes more and more alive; it moves. And the actors themselves, I like it when sometimes the actors are less alive — they are alive but, for example when they slide very slowly down the fabric of the tent, they are less alive; they are like objects becoming part of space. They are not human beings anymore, they are just little pieces of space. So I try to make space more human and to make humans more like space.’


The performers in Géométrie de caoutchouc are not always inert, but they do act passively — or allow the space to lead them. Once the new humans are out in the open we see them draw together and form a sort of proto-society, becoming like a broken memory of a working group, cooperating to perform actions which its members don’t understand. When the tent is released the performers, eight of them, each take a rope and race and fall across the stage to pull the canvas down into a sail, looking tiny and confused as they scramble amid a chaos of ropes; later, with the tent held back at ground level, they run jerkily around its edge, appearing and disappearing behind billowing canvas that receives the image of mad shadows skitting along. Always there is something disconnected in their movement that suggests they are navigating from one impulse to the next, no thoughts beyond the present action.


In Géométrie perhaps it has found very pure expression, but all of Bory’s work begins from the idea of considering the space as itself an actor: ‘I try to work with materials that do something to the actors and to which the actors can do something. It is the actors themselves that push the elements together to build these architectures, but at the same time they are passive, doing what the space tells them to do.’ Is it the ability of the circus performer to flexibly occupy and respond to space that attracts Bory to the artform? ‘Most of my shows are with circus artists, and their background is in circus, but in my work it is with more of a theatrical conception. In terms of action or in terms of relationship to the audience there’s something theatrical and not something circus. What I tried with Géométrie was to take this space, this circus space, and try to push it toward the theatre.’


Working on the borders of theatre, circus and design, perhaps the unusual quality of Bory’s work lies in a desire to extrapolate the qualities of a circus artist and gift them to an object or a space — an idea that found its clearest expression in Les sept planches de la ruse, where a triangular block, balanced precariously on its point, had some of the same tension and simple drama as an artist holding a handstand. Bory nods at this: ‘It is the same drama. It is a mix between puppetry and circus. But if you think of circus artists, they are dealing with objects most of the time — even the acrobats because they have the trapeze. With the trapeze or the unicycle or the juggling ball what they are doing actually is just testing the possibilities of this object, and I think that space, in all of my shows, is a little bit like that. The actors have to find or experience a possibility of this space or object, and this is why I like to work with circus artists: a dancer is dealing more with the body itself or the body in relationship to the floor — the floor is very important in dance. For the circus artists, yes the body is a tool, but it is not really enough — what the circus artist is doing is experiencing the possibilities of the body in relationship to some simple or complex object, or with some simple or complex space. This is exactly why I’m making my shows with circus artists. Of course they are also puppeteers. They are trying to make alive something that isn’t alive; something that is just a rock or piece of wood. I feel really at the intersection of all these forms — circus, puppetry, theatre, dance.’


Working with circus artists and circus skills also comes naturally to Bory as a former performer. He hasn’t been onstage for a long time, but he trained as a juggler and performed in Compagnie 111’s IJK. ‘I feel close to circus artists,’ he says, ‘and in terms of process I’m exactly the same as when I used to be a juggler. I could say in fact that I am a juggler now, even though I’m not juggling. I think I haven’t changed — I’m interested in the same problems. You can think of Les sept planches de la ruse as a big juggling, balancing problem, and what I liked with that show, and what I didn’t expect, was the danger — we felt the danger of circus. With circus most of the time now we don’t feel this danger… I don’t know if it is a good or a bad feeling. I don’t know if I like it or not, but I know there is some danger in Les sept planches and I like the idea of danger — not real danger of course, but the idea that life is dangerous. Very much as you say in French mortelle.’


Mortality — and, more broadly, the nature of humanity — is something that seems to lie at the heart of Bory’s recent output. Sans Objet, particularly, was a striking science fiction fable that explored the idea of machine obsolescence as a metaphor to approach the question of what qualities make a human being a human being, interrogating the assumption that humanness can be identified by a checklist of physical characteristics. In Géométrie de caoutchouc, after the new humans have released the tent and explored the stage — explored the limits of their containment — they try to go back: bring the tent to earth and crawl back under the canvas, which, its energies dissipated, lies flat across the stage. They’re where they began, but clearly it’s not the same, and can’t ever be.


Whether Géométrie’s simple movement from order to chaos to void is read as a metaphor for the rise and decline of religious belief, an environmentalist parable, or a tiny enactment of the eventual heat death of our universe, the show is grappling with some of the big themes of science fiction. Is Bory conscious of this? ‘To me it’s funny because science fiction is not very easy with theatre,’ he says. ‘I think cinema or literature are fantastic for science fiction, but theatre… most often you see something very cheap; you can’t do big effects so you have to play with the idea. With Sans Objet the science fiction theme was very obvious because with these robots I wanted to talk about posthumanity and where it is that we’re going — but also about our past because technology is not from today. It is an old idea, technology, and I try to say in Sans Objet that technology has been part of humanity from the beginning, and humans and technology developed in parallel. Technology is now the dialogue of the everyday, and it will be more and more. Nothing can stop that. I didn’t want to say if it was good or it was bad — not at all — but to say that it is part of our world and it modifies our relationship to the world, how we live…’

In Géométrie, though, the technology isn’t at the centre of the discussion because there is no technology. ‘Instead there is this idea,’ says Bory. ‘What is the experience of living? What is the experience of living on Earth and in this universe? So there’s a universe at the beginning of the show, with the shadow puppetry, and at the end also when there’s this space. At these moments I see something physical connected to the universe; another person could see something else, but for me, in my imagination, it is something connected with physics, the universe, elements. What is the life and what is around the life? What is before the life and what is after the life? So this show is kind of first life and then the afterlife — a flat nothing which is like planets with no life, a desert. It is less of a science fiction show, but it is connected with another world because it is another world. It is a dream of another world which finally finished the same.’


But even though he has his own narrative interpretation, Bory is insistent that the work should be left open for the audience: ‘The show is experienced by an individual as a unique set of ideas, stories, references, and this is the real story — not the one I used to create the show. I used to say, “Yes, this is my understanding of the show”, but now I know that my understanding of the show is not more important than any other understanding. I want the imagination of each person to be very active during the performance, and this for me is very important: that a dialogue starts between the viewer and what’s happening on stage. This relationship is really for me the definition of art. Art is a relation; it is not the object itself. Only if there is a dialogue when this object is made, only if it makes me think something more, makes some connection, makes me think of this or that, makes me feel this or that. Because then we can say this is art because it is happening in our inside space. This is why I really care that there is space for slowness in my shows. I want to create some space for people to have time to choose their reason. I don’t want to rush things — which is also struggling a little bit against the circus concept, which is to rush things.’


One of the most unusual and obvious manifestations of Géométrie de caoutchouc’s slowness is that there are no unique actions — every movement is repeated. When the new humans slide down the fabric of the tent they do so over and over; when the tent is released and they pull on its ropes to draw it this way and that, every configuration is repeated four times, for the four sides. ‘It is at the same time something good and something bad,’ says Bory of this repetition, ‘because what I did is very logical. I followed a very mathematical structure. There is less life in that idea — it is an organised way of doing things. One time for each side; four sides, four times. So there is some mathematics here, but that’s not really why I wanted it: the repetition is more to embrace the whole thing and all the possibilities. Meaning life is a finite space; when you have experienced all that you can experience there is nothing else. And I really wanted to give that idea — that it is all that we can do; possibilities are not infinite. It’s a pity, it’s sad, but it’s true. And the older we get the fewer and fewer possibilities there are; so this is more at the end of the show. At the beginning of the show you have the sense anything could happen, that everything could happen. When they’re at the top it is chaos, it is possibility, it is people, many people, everything. At the end there are very few possibilities, so it is sad. They don’t have a lot of possibilities or choice anymore, so they just do what the space asks them to do.’


Matching the at times austere dramaturgy, the piece has an unusual score — sparse, solo piano composed by Alain Kremski. ‘It was a very odd proposition to bring this composer to a circus tent,’ says Bory, ‘because of course a piano solo is not music for a tent. But I had this intuition to have a solo piano, and I was pleased to find that this intuition really worked in the space. His music tells us something about the space, even the acoustic of the tent; we really use the acoustic of the tent. We don’t know where this music comes from — it comes from everywhere. You cannot say where the speakers are. I struggle with that all the time. I don’t know where to put speakers in order not to hear them, to not hear the origin of the sound, but in this tent you don’t know the origin of the sound. And this piano works very much in this composition about space… We also had some noise from the stage — all the noise that we hear in this performance is live; it is the sound of the tent, of the set. I used the acoustics of the tent because inside the little tent what you hear is incredible; we just put four microphones inside to produce all these fantastic sounds. So it was a good combination of beautiful piano — very simple, very economic, very slow, but very beautiful — and these sounds that are also very beautiful but in a different way, closer to the idea of chaos or accident.’


In light of these decisions — the repetitive structure, the slowness, the unusual music, the big, diffuse ideas — I’m curious whether Bory feels that Géométrie was a difficult or a risky show, and ask him as well whether it represents a change in his way of working. ‘Géométrie is my tenth show,’ he says, ‘so I have more confidence now to try some very difficult things. My problem in my previous shows was to seduce: I had to seduce the audience in my first shows because I was very frightened to disappoint people. And of course with that mindset, consciously or not, you put some limit on the work. Always in my work it was this combination with humour; I like very much humour, and in my previous shows there was a lot of humour to balance a little bit the reports that I had from the audience in slower moments or when it came to some more visual element. And I really like this mix, but… I did that.’


‘For Géométrie I wanted more. I had to say, OK, do something. Do the thing that you really feel, not considering if this person or that person will be disappointed or not. To be more courageous. And what happened to help me was I had some partners, co-producers, and the Fondation BNP Paribas helped me a lot, so there were all these people putting money in and giving me time to work hard on this project. And I said, OK, now the only rule I have to listen to is the rule of art. To try to make something the most sincere, and the most deep, the deepest I can. To try to make something important. And not to say that it is good — because I don’t want to say that. But to say I have to be the servant of art — more and more to be this servant. It gave me more courage to face criticism or people’s disappointment. And this kind of art you can have in some places of course, but putting it under a tent in front of 700-800 people… it was very dangerous, but I really wanted to experience that.’


‘Each night in Circa there are people walking out before the end. I have no problem with that. I know that it will happen. But I like this situation, and for me it makes some sense that some people are going out after 20 minutes and other people really take this show on their soul forever. It is a big contrast — art is made for that I think. I like humour, but there is no humour in that show. It is not what the work needed.’

John Ellingsworth


Aurélien Bory : Géométrie de Caoutchouc [Rubber Geometry]

Par Thomas Hahn - 03 September 2012

Between choreography, circus performance and plastic arts, Aurélien Bory imperturbably continues to make his way.

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Paris / Parc de La Villette

When your house already inhabits another house, which one will you dance in? When your big top already inhabits another big top, how will you make the square into a circle? Here, inside the geometry of a boxing match, the audience is already seated on all four sides. But each of them can only see one. At first, anyway. Aurélien Bory enjoys formal and architectural challenges, working either with materials which impose their rigidity (Plan B), or with props that slip away from the acrobat-dancers (Taoub). And as its name implies, Géométrie de caoutchouc portrays the shift from one to the other. A group of eight humans are born beneath this white tent that occupies the stage. Each of them tries to scale it and master it. Slithers, struggles, collective efforts. And finally, disappearance. The rubber swallows up what it had given: life. Having become a device, the big top sets the pace. The roof flies away like a kite and the group pulls on the ropes to transform it into a work of art.

Imperceptibly, the choreography stems from this joint effort aimed at a celestial utopia of immaculate white. Between choreography, circus performance and plastic arts, Aurélien Bory imperturbably continues to make his way.



Thomas Hahn


Trois questions à… Aurélien Bory, créateur de “Géométrie de caoutchouc”

Par S.Ba. - 30 November 2011

Faire évoluer huit artistes "sur" un mini chapiteau de caoutchouc, une idée insolite.

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Faire évoluer huit artistes “sur” un mini chapiteau de caoutchouc, une idée insolite. Physicien de formation, Aurélien Bory est adepte d’un cirque… expérimental. Ici, il place le chapiteau sur la scène.

Pourquoi un chapiteau dans un chapiteau ?

Aurélien Bory : Le projet est né en 2008 d’une discussion avec Marc Jeancourt, le directeur du Théâtre Firmin-Gémier/La Piscine et de l’Espace Cirque d’Antony. Comme il y a peu d’écritures contemporaines pour le chapiteau, Marc souhaitait proposer à des créateurs de s’emparer de cet espace. Moi qui l’étais consacré uniquement à la scène classique, j’ai répondu que cela m’intéresserait si je trouvais un dispositif qu’on ne pourrait adapter que sous un chapiteau. Le public serait alors installé dans un chapiteau autour d’un chapiteau.

Comment avez-vous mis cette idée en place ?

A.B. : J’ai cherché. Paul Fanni, créateur et loueur de chapiteaux, m’en a montré un à Castres, non loin de Toulouse, où nous travaillons. Il était carré. Je ne savais même pas que cela existait ! Or la forme résolvait certains problèmes : elle permettait de créer en quadrifrontal, avec un plateau carré et des mâts qui constituaient le cadre de scène, tout en offrant un dispositif visuel confortable pour le public. J’ai donc demandé au constructeur italien Ortona de réaliser une réplique au tiers de ce chapiteau, avec une bâche en plastique de 300 kilos et des mâts en aluminium et en acier.

Quelles difficultés techniques avez-vous rencontrées ?

A.B. : Le spectacle joue sur les chutes et le déséquilibre des corps sur le chapiteau. La toile s’élève et s’affaisse, si bien qu’on peut la comparer à une machinerie de théâtre. Le dispositif technique a été très long à mettre au point. Il a fallu trouver la résistance et le poids idéal pour la bâche, régler les contrepoids… Enfin, pour les artistes, évoluer sur un chapiteau (c’est-à-dire rester dans l’instabilité pendant plus d’une heure) est une épreuve d’endurance, physiquement éprouvante. Mais le public ne s’en rend absolument pas compte !






L’arc-en-ciel de la gravité

Par Daniel Marvon - 13 October 2011

Après avoir exploré toutes les virtualités de l'objet chapiteau, le spectateur se découvre sur un arc-en-ciel de gravité.

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Vidés, les huit acrobates. Et pourtant, ils n’ont pas défié la mort sur un trapèze, escaladé une échelle de cordes. Ils se sont juste battus avec un chapiteau. Au début, on a même eu peur de s’ennuyer. Du cirque sans accessoire. Sans cirque. Sans acrobatie. Du tout neuf sans repères, juste la musique qui nous prend par la main pour 1 h 15 sans filet.

Huit comédiens en imperméable style Giulietta Masina dans La Strada. Et un bébé chapiteau arrimé et lesté. Baleine capable de vous avaler comme Jonas. Méduse géante. Tente diabolique – style Quechua. « C’est bien un spectacle de garçon, ça », constate une spectatrice en observant le système de câbles, de suspentes et de contrepoids qui rend possible tout ça. C’est vrai, il y a de l’abstraction dans ce spectacle sur l’instabilité.

Un truc de matheux, ce spectacle en boucle parfaite qui va des huit personnages enfermés dans un chapiteau, avec leurs inquiétantes reptations, jusqu’à leur retour dans cette matrice, en passant par la courbe gracieuse de tous leurs titubements d’humains.

Après avoir exploré toutes les virtualités de l’objet chapiteau, le spectateur se découvre sur un arc-en-ciel de gravité. À notre insu, Aurélien Bory a mis en nous la comédie humaine (Charlie Chaplin et Paulette Goddard, suggère une autre spectatrice), le goût enfantin de l’escalade, des glissades dans les dunes, le mythe de Sisyphe, les tremblements de terre, le Pakistan submergé, tout l’effroi du monde et le terrible bonheur d’exister.

Daniel Marvon


Without Object

Mechanical Movement, Human Partners

Par Gia Kourlas - 13 November 2012

In the end the robot is more sentient than the men; and that’s the scariest part of all.

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You never know what you’re going to get with the French director Aurélien Bory’s nouveau cirque productions. Mr. Bory masterminds illusory works that encompass a multitude of specialties, including dance, theater, circus and technology. It can get gimmicky, but when his fertile imagination is intact, he doesn’t play around. Or rather it’s when he does play around that he strikes the right magical note.

In “Sans Objet,” a work both sinister and beautiful performed by Mr. Bory’s Compagnie 111 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House on Friday evening, the agenda is man versus technology. Olivier Alenda and Olivier Boyer appear in the flesh, yet the real lead is an imposing robot, created, according to press materials, in the 1970s by the automotive industry and programmed and operated for the performance by Tristan Baudoin.

Developed to carry heavy pieces in assembly lines, the robot, which stands in the middle of the stage on a platform, mirrors the movements of an arm: a long segment with an elbow reaches forward or swings around. It extends to resemble a lean dinosaur’s neck and even possesses something of a face, which in profile recalls the inquisitive E.T. What is it about a robot head that can be so darn cute?

At the start the robot is covered with thick black plastic. As it twists, the rippling material wraps itself around the base like a skirt. In “Sans Objet,” which translates to “objectless,” the plastic moves as fluidly as a body, swallowing up the stage with its mass and then melting down again. Under Arno Veyrat’s silvery lighting this steel object pulsates with life.

When Mr. Alenda and Mr. Boyer appear, they are all business in white shirts and black suits and ties. They fight to pull off the plastic and embark on a sensory dance with the machine, hanging from it as if they were floating in space; their balance and ability to freeze time and challenge gravity is strangely hypnotic.

Such precision is necessary when moving with a machine, but the robot’s elegance gradually turns ominous. More than once Mr. Bory refers to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”; his robot pulls apart the platform stage and places panels upright like the monoliths that appear in the film. The stage is transformed into skyline, and the men are prisoners of a machine.

But while the robot is certainly menacing, “Sans Objet” isn’t so much about showing technology’s destructive side as it is a mesmerizing juxtaposition of the living and the dormant. In the end the robot is more sentient than the men; and that’s the scariest part of all.

Gia Kourlas


Compagnie 111:Aurélien Bory, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Par Zoé Anderson - 27 January 2011

That robot is the star of the show. It has amazing range and delicacy of movement.

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Aurélien Bory’s Sans Objet is a work for two acrobats and a 1970s industrial robot. The human performers, Olivier Alenda and Olivier Boyer, are taut and disciplined, but that robot is the star of the show. It has amazing range and delicacy of movement: flowing and twisting, picking up and setting things down, pulling the floor from under its human partners’ feet.

Bory’s Compagnie 111 comes to the South Bank as part of the London International Mime Festival. This celebration of visual, (mostly) wordless theatre covers everything from acrobats and puppets to lectures on laughter. Bory is a regular visitor, staging large-scale works in some of the festival’s biggest venues. In one of his recent shows, an acrobatic cast played a giant version of the Chinese geometric game Tangram, where the pieces were bigger than the people playing with them.

The robot, operated by Tristan Baudoin, is an articulated metal arm that was originally used to make cars. The show starts with the machine under wraps, draped in black plastic sheeting. As it turns and undulates, the plastic ripples over surprisingly fluid movements.

It’s a strong image, though Bory does linger on it. Sans Objet is a clever work that explores its ideas at slightly too much length. Some of the pacing may be technical – how quickly can the robot adjust to a new task? It’s also a matter of tone, an urge to philosophise.

The human performers are men in suits, hiding their suppleness under jackets and ties. Hanging on to the machine, they’re strong enough to stretch their bodies out in firm horizontal poses. Their demeanour suggests matter-of-fact office workers; perhaps they’ve become mechanised, too.

Zoé Anderson


Dance with the robot

Par Ariane Bavelier - 02 March 2010

With Sans Objet, Aurélien Bory puts his name to a play that is as original as it is successful.

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The stage is bathed in shadows. Light reflects off a sheet stretched out like a lake in the moonlight. Suddenly, something stirs beneath it. What is it? What? The shape that is sketching itself out? It could be Loïe Fuller making her giant veils soar, or a penitent clad in a hood… We can clearly see a body topped with a head, which sways itself in the giant movements of a solitary pavane dance.

Two men appear, fresh and smart in their white shirts and ties. It’s impossible to resist: they want to know what this great totem is that dances before them. Under the sheet, a robot appears, one of those that were used in the automobile industry in the 1970s. Without an object – here we have but two men and not the slightest bit of car bodywork.

The meeting is tense. The robot grabs the head of one man and buries the other. Both seem to understand that there are ways and means to tame such a beast. Curiosity, the need to adapt. They test it, sit astride it, make movements that copy its strange lines. The machine sets a tempo, then launches them into a combat-dance, moving the ground out from beneath their feet, creating holes and walls, and cutting bodies in two. This ends after an hour and a quarter with a shower of stars.

Aurélien Bory has succeeded, once more, in playing the magician. There is nothing heavy or didactic in this inconceivable pas de trois. Humour, a ton of ideas and a dose of incongruity make this burlesque meeting between man and technology a contemporary digression on Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Ariane Bavelier


An unusual pas de trois for a robot and acrobats

Par Rosita Boisseau - 02 March 2010

Bory puts his name to an optimistic play on the robotic marvels of the technological era.

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Aurélien Bory presents his new piece, Sans Objet, at Abbesses Theatre in Paris

A space station with weightless astronauts, a giant lamp to monitor a fictional work site, a sculpture like a child’s game that can be moved live on stage…

A number of images spring to mind while contemplating Sans Objet, producer Aurélien Bory’s new piece for a robot and two acrobat-actors, presented as part of the theatre programme of Abbesses Theatre in Paris until 6 March, because the star of this unusual and incongruous pas de trios is an immense robot, a great arm of articulated iron, which moves at (almost) exactly the same speed as its dance partners.

The starting point for Sans Objet was to move an industrial robot, used in the 1960s in the automobile industry, to a theatre stage. The move performed, there is no doubt that the thing has indeed arrived. Superb, magnetic, it takes its place in the middle of a small, grey, raised stage and dominates its two supernumeraries, dressed in white shirts and black ties, with its metallic beauty.

Depending on its movements – spiralling in on itself, changing the axis of its arm, flattening itself onto the stage – the robot takes on anthropomorphic feel. By dint of blinking the projectors that serve as eyes and huffing and puffing like a tired old thing, the machine becomes terribly human.

Aurélien Bory’s approach could have stopped at a few artistic acrobatics centred on the overdone “Man and machine” theme. But Compagnie 111’s director, who has also studied physics, architectural acoustics and cinema, always digs deeper to reach the most fertile subjects.

To begin, Bory must have spent a long time watching the robot, exploring everything it was capable of to extract such a diverse range of dialogues with its two accomplices, present on stage from beginning to end.

From taming the beast by circling round it, to the construction of a wall of removable plates, the investigation led by Bory makes another scenario leap out of each situation, using a system of association of ideas and a progressive descent into action.

From twists to surprises, Sans Objet crosses art and mechanics, the logic of dreams and techniques, by playing with all of the scenarios.

Dominant-dominated, manipuler-manipulated, the role-plays evolve, making the two acrobats shoulder the status of man-object, a worker from another world, a half-flesh, half-metal mutant. Burlesque pauses and absurd indecision – perfectly acted by Olivier Alenda and Pierre Cartonnet – systematically fill in the gaps, thus preventing Sans Objet from veering towards being a mere demonstration of an invention.

Once again, Aurélien Bory does not fail to amaze. His dexterity when it comes to tapping into totally different universes is a case in point. His two most recent plays were based on incomparable atmospheres.

In 2008, Les Sept Planches de la Ruse staged fourteen Chinese actors, experts from Beijing’s Opera House. Starting with an ancient Chinese game, qi qiao ban, otherwise known as tangram, made up of five triangles, a square and a parallelogram of various sizes, he erected a powerful geometric structure, like a giant brain teaser.

More recently, Aurélien Bory devised Questcequetudeviens? for the dancer Stéphanie Furster, a flamenco trio full of delicacy, and brimming with obscurity.

With Sans Objet, supported during the performance by the programmer and robot driver Tristan Baudoin, Bory puts his name to an optimistic play on the robotic marvels of the technological era.

Rosita Boisseau


Aurélien and his “dance machine”

Par Philippe Noisette - 26 February 2010

It revitalises all of the fundamental notions of modern circus.

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The leader of a form of performance art that blends together circus, dance and visual theatre, Toulouse’s Aurélien Bory loves to surprise his audience. After his work on the line and the infinite, and his projects with Moroccan and Chinese actors, without forgetting a rereading of flamenco, here is a performance that puts a robot on stage. And two actor-acrobats! Sans Objet is supposed to be both a reflexion on a technological future where Man’s place will have to be reconsidered, and a poetic meander. This robot, purchased from a General Motors factory and simply repainted black, holds the centre role in this mechanism: it leads the dance, threatening or cajoling its partners, and ends up stealing the show. Wrapped up in a dark sheet at the beginning, it brings to mind cinema’s Alien, if you’re memory goes that far back, with its anthropomorphic, almost swan-like form.

But, during the duo, it revitalises all of the fundamental notions of modern circus: suspended, stretched, or even cut in two by the joke effect created by a surface that moves itself, the actor bends to the dominant robot’s little game. This articulated arm is never done with dismantling the décor – sliding boards on a raised stage – in a Japanese-inspired fashion. Sans Objet sometimes loses its intensity, in particular when the human presence leaves the show during a few manoeuvres. We prefer the projection of shadows or the deformed videos. Aurélien Bory, with limitless imagination, even dares to create a finale like a night sky: a stroke of inspiration that we’d rather not give away. You can discover it for yourself at the theatre.

Sans Objet is also and above all a team effort, with Olivier Alenda and Olivier Boyer on stage, and Tristan Baudoin, the robot driver, among others. Humans, above all.

Philippe Noisette


What’s become of you ?


Par Nathalie Yokel - 01 December 2014

It was specifically Aurélien Bory who was able, in Quescequetudeviens? to offer to Stéphanie Fuster, the finest of solos.

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“Oh là là, it’s full of tourists here!” On that day, in Seville’s Triana neighbourhood, Manolo Marin’s class was in full swing. This little phrase, let slip insidiously, will not however succeed in breaking the iron will that drives Stéphanie Fuster. She is, and will remain, gripped by a deep desire to collide with flamenco, to make this culture and art her own and to assert herself, this young French girl from afar, like a real bailaora.” Portrait: Nathalie Yokel

Today, Stéphanie Fuster jokes about the entire adventure. “I’m lucky to have a Spanish head on my shoulders, so I wasn’t excluded! It simply took some time, and I slipped into this universe without much trouble. I experienced flamenco in a highly personal way, and they were very sensitive to that”. At the time – and things have changed in the last five years – few “foreigners” learnt flamenco, and today’s networks did not exist. However, she continued her training in traditional flamenco and performed for nearly two years in a tablao (a flamenco venue) in Seville – something rather rare.

Leaving everything: a family tale

To get to this point, choices that were as radical as they were decisive had to be made! And yet, Stéphanie Fuster talks of a “natural” career path in Toulouse, during which she did not ask herself any questions. Like any little girl at the time, she read Martine petit rat de l’Opéra [Martine the ballet student] and was fascinated by the final image where the heroine performs on stage. Like any little girl, she attended dance classes. And as was customary in her family, she continued with her studies, going as far as to obtain an advanced diploma in public law. At the same time, she collected a rather incredible number of techniques: classical, contemporary, modern jazz, character dance, etc. and admits that in dance she was able to come into her own. Everything fell into place when she met Isabelle Soler, a great figure of flamenco dance in Toulouse, and heir to La Joselito. So why, one fine day, did Stéphanie push the door to her Atelier Flamenco Andalou? “It was both a desire to dance, a desire for flamenco, to open doors in my life and give myself new possibilities. Arriving in her studio, I really started to feel harmony with this world”, she tells us. But in the background, it is impossible not to see the reflection of the next instalment in a deeper family history.

Stéphanie is the granddaughter of Spanish immigrants, who fled their country and Franco’s dictatorship. Without knowing it, she found herself at the heart of a search for culture and identity, which crystallised around flamenco as she flung herself into it, body and soul. While things unfolded naturally in her life, here she was, having to make the hardest choice of all: to leave, go in the opposite direction, and give everything up. “It was radical, because I left everything all at once. The path of art, the question of my place, what I had to say on the inside, it wasn’t all obvious to me”, she remembers. “It was a little like diving from a great height: you close your eyes and go – and you can’t go back. In any case it was necessary: I wanted to learn flamenco, I wanted to dance, and I wanted to understand this art, so in some ways I didn’t have a choice!”

Between tradition and experimentation

Her eight-year apprenticeship in traditional flamenco in Seville also required her to listen to music, from morning to night, and night to morning. With Maria Angeles Gabaldón and Juan Carlos Lerida, she experienced modern flamenco, which led her to create the performance Inmigración. She then danced for and was filmed by Israel Galván, and discovered another world: “I learnt while watching him work and I saw his freedom, I understood his references, and I realised that he nourished himself with far more than just the body movements of flamenco themselves. He experimented, and I had never seen that with flamenco”. But under her smile and her lilting accent hides a woman who has doubts and has never stopped looking for her path. Flamenco is, undoubtedly, a part of her life: “I love guitarist Pedro Bacán’s definition of it, of an art of controlled tension. It’s closest to what I feel. It’s the expression of an internal opposition that creates tension; there is always a movement, or a drive that is contradicted, and that creates this tension and this space of internal vitality. These are very contained things: it happens inside the body before being with the body.”

Flamenco moves towards other imaginary worlds

But Stéphanie was about to be confronted with another form of inner opposition: the desire to experiment with other adventures that go beyond a discipline and express a vision of the world that does not go hand-in-hand with a “straightjacket that had become to tight”. Conversations with her Toulouse-based friend, director Aurélien Bory, or with the dancer Pierre Rigal, continued to feed an ever-stronger appetite and ever-deeper questions after years of performing in Spain, France, Germany, Australia, Turkey and Russia, etc. Her experience with Vicente Pradel in El Divan de Tamarit pushed her into choreography. Back in France, she expressed herself through her own projects, looking for personal writings (Odisea, Andanzas) in the cuadro flamenco form. She continued her work with the guitarist and composer José Sanchez, who is no stranger to her way of deconstructing flamenco. But it was specifically Aurélien Bory who was able, in Quescequetudeviens? to offer her the finest of solos: a woman consumed by her past, her desires, grappling with the opposite of furiousness and saturation to better accept the flow and instability of her life.

Today, the dancer, who, since 2006, has run her own venue in Toulouse, La Fabricá Flamenca, is attracted by collaboration. Why not work with artists such as the German playwright Raimund Hogue? “His writing is made up of so many silences… I like that it leaves a lot of room for visual expression and the imaginary. Flamenco has a tendency to offer such a full programme that it drags us down, instantly filling in all the space for the imaginary. So I dream of connecting with other people”. A radical and decisive choice, once again.

Nathalie Yokel


Bashing Out A Blood, Sweat And Tears Flamenco At The Barbican

Par Belindal - 31 January 2014

Refreshing, surprising and often funny, What’s Become of You enables us to really appreciate the dance by unleashing it from its cultural prism.

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Traditional flamenco can be spellbinding to watch. Yet the swirling skirts and polished moves can become repetitive after a while. This unconventional one woman show, What’s Become of You, and part of the London International Mime Festival, literally throws off the shackles of the red flamenco dress to offer us a deconstructed, grittier and ultimately, more rewarding version of the Spanish dance.

Arriving on stage we see the typical flamenco dancer, but there’s something wrong. This one is speaking gibberish and randomly clicking her fingers, her arms forming spasmodic flamenco shapes. Her red dress, too, seems to sit frumpily on her shoulders. But all is to be revealed as her dress becomes the prop for a much more entertaining mime sequence; a funeral hearse, a warrior chieftain.

Two further marvellous scenes transpose flamenco into ordinary situations, dressing it in new clothes. In a portakabin our soloist, Stéphanie Fuster, furiously practises 90 miles per hour flamenco feet rhythms to her critical reflection in the mirror, dressed in masculine khaki trousers and t-shirt. Fuster dedicated herself to perfecting flamenco for eight years and this scene underlined the sweat and tears that must have taken her on that journey. Next, water dramatically oozes like black treacle across the stage. She could now be an office worker, wandered out in her black shift dress to wade in a city fountain. She stomps the ground, the water splashing to create a beautiful and lasting image in our minds.

Refreshing, surprising and often funny, What’s Become of You enables us to really appreciate the dance by unleashing it from its cultural prism. Accompanied by guitarist and singer, transporting us to Spanish rustic landscapes, we nonetheless aren’t cheated of its romance. A fitting note for the London International Mime Festival to end on (this weekend) it is a true celebration of the unusual, the visual and the sublime.




Par Juan Maria Rodriguez - 12 March 2011

Un hipnotico tour de force formalista

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No creo que los flamencos hayan captado realmente el sentido reversible que la declaraci6n como patiimo­ nio universal puede inyectarle a su género. Lo pienso contemplando el patio de butacas del Teatro Central, vado de flamencos, ante Questœqueludeviens, el bri­ llante ejercicio formalista que Aurélien Bory y la Compagnie l l l -teatreros de vanguardia que cueœn su radical funambulismo ecléctico mezclandolo todo, sin reconocer jerarquias culturales ni mostrar culpa ni acomplejamiento aiguno- y que esta vez han coci­ nado una cosa, digamos, flamenca, para Stéphanie Fuster, una francesa estupenda que hace 15 af!os cumpli6 a rajatabla con el mito actualizado de los via­ jeros romanticos: ya fonnada en clasico y contempo­ raneo, la bailarina lleg6 a Sevilla buscando para su danza un perejil de pintoresquismo con una beca pa­ ra sels meses. Gui6n clâsico: inhal6 T1iana, seengan­ ch6 al flamenco y se qued6 8 af!os. (Qué nos gusta a los indigenas contar estas historias de deslumbra­ rnientos exteriores. Parece que nos ratifican en que aqui somos la hostia, iverdad?) Pues con esa mezcla impetuosa de curiosidad, descaro, brillantez y tenaci­ dad que muestran tantos guhis animados compulsi­ vamente a Io nuestro, Stéphanie, fo1jada en el magis­ terio de Mano Io Marin, se hizo râpidamente un sitio hasta acabar en el combo de Israel Galvan, el kami­ kaze.

Corno la chica es honesta, se sabe balla rina -que no bailaora- tiene cosas que decir y no tenfa el menor in­ terés en pasarse el resto de su vida ejerciendo en An­ dalucfa de ex6tica imitadora de los viejos maestros, que es Io que los flamencos habtian quelido, un flore­ ro francés, se volvi6 a Toulouse para hacer Io que ella es: el flamenco a la francesa. Y eso es Questcequetu­ deviens, que elocuentemente significa «iEn qué te es­ tas convhtiendo?» (ella y, justamente, el flamenco): un intelectual y c6mico ejercicio de caban visual estillsti­ camente depuradisimo, con puesta en escena de Io mas original y antiflamenca : como que la firma el gambe1ro (y franchute) Aurélien BOIY, obispo de la ico­ noc!astia europea mas actualîsima para el que el fla­ menco es s6lo otro ingrediente mâs de su cocido sofis­ ticadamente deconstrnido.

El resultado es un hipn6tico tour de force formalis­ ta: cantaor y guitruTista autoparodiando el hlstri6nico exœso de teatralidad y de tragedia en el flamenco cho­ candose en cada «iayl» mientras se deslizan en sillas de oficina o la Stéphanie despojada de su escarlata vestido de faralaes, que se le separa del cuerpo con una mngica autonomia encantadoramente su1Tealista . Pues eso no le mola a los cabales, acantonados en su canon indigenista, incapaces de sentir la cmiosidad de ver qué es el flamenco para unos artistas europeos in­ terdisciplinares ni dedigerir la propuesta en el contex­ to del mestizaje de todos los lenguajes.

Nada: imposible. Como este escénico quejio y este balle no son, ni remotrunente, pura sangre -aunque al fondo viéramos la nuez flamenca despojada de câsca­ ra y virntas- el espectaculo pasa de puntillas oes acu­ sado de gelidez noiteila; de falta de racialidad y pelliz· co. Quieren comparai·la arraigada tradici6n flamenca de Toulouse con la denominaci6n de 01igen de Uti-era . iYno coinciden: qué pena! Lo dicho: yo no creo que los flrunencos hayan captado el sentido reversible l uni­ co quizâ innovador – de esa orla del pattimonio univer­ sal que aqui (creian) solo trae1ia mas subvenciones de la Unesco. Pues abran juego, senores, porque el casi­ no se ha hecho grande.

(P.D. José Luis Castro la lia en el Cervantes de Ma­ laga, al que los integlistas de la secta antitabaco acu­ san de desacatar la ley porque en El secreto de Susa­ na, de \Volf-Feffari, iqué escândalo!, la protagonista fuma. iClaro, es la historia de una senora cuyo ocul­ to vicio tabaquista prende los celos del marido, que olisquea su ropa y sospecha que el pestazo es del hu­ mo de otro hombre! José Luis prob6 con un probo pi­ tillo de atrezzo elect r6nico: pero el chupete era lidi­ culo, fosfo1-eaba extraterrestre y exhalaba un humi­ lia tan blandlblu que la viciosilla quedaba en una bendita pu ritana salida de la desintoxicaci6n en una clinica. Mas velismo da el denso humazo de un t6xi­ co cigarro verdadero. Y eso ha catapultado al Ce1van­ tes hasta los titulru-es nacionales a los que apenas tœ­ pa. Censura, catecismo progre y estùpida ortodoxia, es Io que hay. Lâstima, no puedo ir: yo pagaiia por so­ lo oler ese pitillo).


Juan Maria Rodriguez


An everyday question with a striking answer

Par Annie Rodriguez - 28 July 2011

Magic, illusion, fantasy; it’s all there.

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It’s the banal question that leaves your lips when you come across a friendly face (or at least someone you were vaguely fond of) on a street corner in a familiar town, a few years after the curtain of your relationship came down for an intermission. The person to whom you ask this question then suddenly sees all the time that has gone by since they last saw you fly past in a few seconds. Aurélien Bory asked Stéphanie Furster this question and has staged her answer. And for fifty minutes, over three acts, Stéphanie plays us the film of her young life, from the birth of her passion to its realisation.


From this petite young girl, elegant and discreet, a brilliant student in law, to the young woman possessed by the duende of flamenco, this performance offers up the story of a passion: Stéphanie’s story, which leads her from the banks of the Garonne River to those of the Guadalquivir. She only intended to stay a few months, but ended up living there for eight years, perfecting what she had already started to learn in Toulouse alongside Isabel Soler with the greatest masters of Seville.

The time of the illusion

On a stage without a curtain, in a muted and unreal light, a guitar chord resonates for many minutes, repetitive and insistent. On the stage three elements gradually appear from the shadows: a white cube, a prefabricated structure, just as white and partly made of glass, and a square on the floor that takes up the front part of the stage. A delicate silhouette also appears from the shadows and disappears into the crimson flounces of what is, for us, a typical flamenco dress. Stéphanie moves forward and leans over the edge of this stage-dance floor, as if attracted by a mirror (but one you might find at the funfair?). And then a hand draws a volute in the air and onomatopoeias reflect a flamenco rhythm, or is this in fact a way of mocking herself, of mocking that which is still but a dream? The dream of a little girl who sketches out the first steps of this dance that – as she already knows – will be her life, and who plays with the flounces of this dress that will become the symbol of this flamenco culture, so codified and sometimes well overused. The woman emerges little by little from this constraint, walks around with it, adorns herself with it like a Madonna during a procession, while the deep voice of singer Alberto García proclaims a saeta where the words “divina”, “cruz” and “penitencia” announce the long way of the cross that awaits this chrysalis who, finally, in a last convulsive movement and a last taconeo, frees herself of this stiff envelope that imprisoned her in a twisted tradition.

Of sweat and blood

Act two begins with an incongruous transition: a flamenco guitarist, playing while sitting on an office chair, is being pushed, as if in a game, by a singer seated on the same kind of chair. Stéphanie reappears in work wear, in this pre-fabricated studio, separated from the public by a pane of glass, alone in front of her mirror. And this is where the long work of apprenticeship begins: the heel that taps the floor over and over, working the ground, as if to take root in the nourishing earth of dance. The arms thrust up towards the sky, playing with their shadow on the wall and the mirror, forming an extraordinary kaleidoscope that undulates with the flow of the dancer’s movements. And then follow exhaustion, despondency, the temptation to give it all up, and a sudden start, as she takes up the challenge again with even more determination to succeed. The sweat that little by little mists up the studio’s window, the perceptible heat that pushes Stéphanie to once again throw off the superfluous: trousers, tee-shirt, shoes, and vest; everything falls to the ground and the marks of a body, an arm, and hands are left on the misty window, abandoned like a snake shedding its skin in dry grass.

Now and forever?

Here we are again on the stage-dance floor for the third act. The stage lights have been turned off, a little black dress has replaced the flounces and the dance wear. The dancer moves to begin, but a soft murmur stops her. Water is slowly creeping over the floor; water, the destabilising element. What will come of this dance, which relies on making the floor sing with the tapping of the heel? A miracle occurs. We rediscover Stéphanie’s fieriness, and her incredible energy that transforms this liquid stumbling block into a partner, encircling her with a thousand tiny droplets that make the grace of her arms iridescent. And in her choreography we find this nuevo flamenco that breaks the movements and stiffens the hands which, seconds before, clutched at a shadow, as she arches her body even more than before.

It is here that the total osmosis between the guitar (what sensibility from José Sanchez!), singing (the magnificent Alberto García) and dance is even more astounding. To this is added the constantly underlying feeling of urgency, of an inexorable march, but towards what? “Reniego de mi sono” goes the copla that accompanies this moment: “I fiercely deny this destiny that is mine”. And the dancer takes up this new challenge. Stéphanie tames the water, has fun with it, submerges herself in it until she conquers it and triumph finally awaits her, immobile as the guitar takes up the same insistent chord from the start of the performance, and the light slowly fades.


The magician behind this slice of life is Aurélien Bory, artistic director of Compagnie 111, to whom we owe performances that are “twisted” away from their initial meaning, such as Les Sept Planches de la Ruse and Taoub, which always take a remarkable approach towards the artistic visions of other continents.

In this one we find the work of illusion: the red dress that swallows the dancer, vertically or horizontally; the circus and its string of little lights around the stage; the imagination that makes a flamenco singer sing, fall from his wheeled chair and who continue to sing while lying flat on his stomach! But what underpins the whole performance is the notion of confinement that crops up in every sequence. Stéphanie finds herself imprisoned in a dress, in her studio, in her art, in the solitude that artists and creators inhabit. Magic, illusion, fantasy; it’s all there, plus the consummate art of Stéphanie Furster, who, according to Vincent Pradal “is one of the best flamenco dancers that exile has ever created”, and who was able to drink from the sources of Israel Galván’s Nuevo Flamenco, to give us a magnificent personal interpretation of it.

Annie Rodriguez


Fragility as chosen by Aurélien Bory

Par Rosita Boisseau - 06 October 2009

A few guitar notes in the shadows, a voice that cuts through the air, a re. A few guitar notes in the shadows, a voice that cuts through the air, a red flounced dress that is like a ghost arising from the depths of the memory…d flounced dress that is like a ghost arising from the depths of the memory…

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Questcequetudeviens? [what’s new with you?] The banality of the title of producer Aurélien Bory’s new play, showing at Nanterre-Amandiers Theatre, reveals no clues about the performance. On the contrary, even. It situates it resolutely in the opposite camp. This trio – a flamenco dancer (Stéphanie Furster), a singer (Alberto García) and a guitarist (José Sanches) – has the indefinable flavour of an exotic and unusual dish that must be chewed over slowly, mouthful by mouthful, before it is accepted.

The recipe for Questcequetudeviens? calls for lightness, fragility and sparseness. A few guitar notes in the shadows, a voice that cuts through the air, a red flounced dress that is like a ghost arising from the depths of the memory… Paradoxically, what could be seen as weaknesses become positive qualities in a performance that loves itself and that is proud to proclaim itself as slender, fleeting and built on next to nothing in an empty space.

What holds this flamenco trio together, then? Stage craft and a mass of finely-tuned details. We know just how much the devil is in the detail… and this can make or break the artist’s intention. Between the Portakabin-style glass structure, which transforms into a little rehearsal studio, and the square of raised boards that support the dancer, the actors come and go, playing at hide and seek, rolling around on wheeled chairs. Aurélien Bory could almost have choreographed this piece in a corridor where the characters cross paths as if in a dream.

Here is one single image, for example, that makes Questcequetudeviens? magically original. Suddenly, patches of condensation cover the window of the cabin until it is opaque. Winter passes in just a few seconds, with smoking mouths and chimneys.

The talent of the performers, in particular Stéphanie Furster, is largely responsible for the beauty of this piece that imperceptibly takes on the style of a portrait and a declaration to the dancer. In fifty-five minutes Stéphanie Furster slips from the little girl dressing up as a Spaniard to the woman she is today, for whom flamenco has become an entrance ticket to life.

Her dance is restrained, dry and full of edges. When she explodes in the air like a gunshot she draws an electric graphic. Her zapateado (tapping heels against the ground) seems to tear earthquakes and shudders from the ground that radiate down to the tips of her fingers. The stubbornness to find her movement can be read in each of her gestures. Stépahie Furster is an elegant woman, and hard to dance.


From Toulouse like Aurélien Bory, she left France for Seville and flamenco. From 1998 to 2006 she trained with Manolo Marin, then Israël Galvan, with whom she collaborated on a variety of performances. In 2006 she created La Fabrica Flamenca in Toulouse. She herself asked Aurélien Bory to produce a show for her; he said yes.

Questcequetudeviens? resembles an intake of breath in the work of a producer who likes sidesteps. Bory is currently touring his large-format Les Sept Planches de la Ruse, created in 2007 for fourteen Chinese acrobats, and is rehearsing a new performance with a robot, titled Sans Objet. Since 2000, the career path of someone who loves to fuse things that seem incompatible has not ceased to surprise. Architectural acoustics, firstly, followed by circus, juggling, theatre and dance, are all part of his ammunition. Polishing a miniature such as Questcequetudeviens? adds a new feather to his bow.

Rosita Boisseau


The 7 Boards of Trickery

Eloquence without words

Par Ian Shuttleworth - 20 January 2009

Even geometric blocks seem to possess a grace of their own.

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There is something at once entirely abstract yet universally eloquent about the ways in which Aurélien Bory works with geometry onstage and it is perhaps this aesthetic elegance that suggested a collaboration with Chinese performers. Les Sept Planches has, in effect, a cast of 21: of these, 14 are Beijing Opera practitioners from the city of Dalian, the others are huge blocks shaped like pieces in the game of Tangram – “the seven boards of skill” from which this piece takes its title.

We first see these pieces lying flat on the stage, forming a rostrum from behind which the human performers slowly emerge to the accompaniment of a bowed erhu . They are pushed into new configurations – at first slowly and flat – as performers move along, around and on them, fall through a gap between pieces or occasionally seem to vanish into the “edge” of one. But one by one, though, the blocks are moved into vertical configuration, revealed as triangles of varying sizes, a square, a parallelogram. They become landscapes: a vista of mountains, city blocks behind which we glimpse various movements, a row of air vents on a building’s roof. Men and women stand on them, move around and over them, are menaced by them when they seem to form a set of clashing animal or mechanical teeth.

When the pieces are combined into more complex vistas, the pieces are seldom left static for more than a few seconds; as they are pushed together and apart, gravity is allowed to turn them from one side up on to another, and thus they appear to be taking part in the same kind of acrobatics as their human complement. People stand, sit, walk across triangular bridges above shifting crevasses, balance their way over delicately modulating alps . . . In effect, they are negotiating their way through an impermanent world, and Bory’s remark in the programme that “a game is a way of representing the world” is startlingly realised.

Four years ago, Bory’s Plan B astounded me on its visit to the London International Mime Festival, playing dazzling games with dimension and perspective. Les sept planches does the same with gravity, and does so with such skill that even geometric blocks seem to possess a grace of their own. ****

Ian Shuttleworth


Acrobats in a Ballet of Blocks Showing the Poetry of Wood

Par Jason Zinoman - 07 November 2008

This precisely choreographed ballet of blocks takes you back in time, rediscovering an elemental pleasure of childhood.

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When a toddler focuses on a group of blocks, what does she see?

It could be a puzzle or some weapons or perhaps the materials for a spectacular tower. The possibilities are as endless as the imagination allows. The same could be said of the inventively conceived and flawlessly produced show “Les Sept Planches de la Ruse (The Seven Boards of Skill),” a seamless mix of circus arts, minimalist dance and visual art that at its core is nothing more than playing with blocks.

Running through Saturday as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s essential Next Wave festival, this wordless, slowly paced show features 14 acrobats pushing around huge three- and four-sided wood shapes (the largest are 500 pounds) on a carpeted floor. The director, Aurélien Bory, is French, and the performers, whose faces are often obscured by shadow, are Chinese, but the language is pure geometry.

Bathed in warm red and yellow hues — Arno Veyrat’s sober, elegant lighting is miles away from the Big Top — the pieces slide against one another and topple over, forming clean lines that look like shrinking tunnels, growing mountains and teetering houses. This beautiful, constantly shifting architecture presents challenges for the limber, gravity-defying actors. In between scaling slender quadrilaterals and hanging from the top of a triangle are occasional jolts of surprise, old circus tricks (high dives, surprise appearances) that lighten the severe, high art mood.

If you look for metaphors in “Seven Boards,” inspired by the puzzle game Tangram, you can find them pretty easily, and the deliberately mechanical performance style makes the cast seem like cogs in pieces of a mighty machine that’s struggling to fit together. But the impact can be more direct and abstract, creating suspense, fright and even emotional engagement merely by the movement of shapes.

At one point the night I saw the show, members of the audience gasped at the unexpected way a triangle fell to the stage. Perhaps they were worried that it would hit someone. Or maybe this precisely choreographed ballet of blocks takes you back in time, rediscovering an elemental pleasure of childhood. It’s fun to play with blocks.

Jason Zinoman


La danse comme des mathématiques

Par Rosita Boisseau - 01 February 2009

Le résultat scénique est un ballet acrobatique d'objets dont la méticulosité de manipulation est extrême.

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Aurélien Bory propose « Les Sept Planches de la ruse » au Théâtre de la Ville. Une variation autour d’un jeu chinois.

Le titre faisait rêver à chaque fois qu’on passait devant une affiche du spectacle dans le métro. Les Sept Planches de la ruse, pièce conçue en Chine par le jongleur et metteur en scène Aurélien Bory, ressemblait à une formule magique propice à des scénarios rocambolesques, entre kung-fu, manga et western asiatique. De quoi s’agit-il ? Sur le plateau du Théâtre de la Ville, à Paris, sept gros blocs sombres aux formes géométriques glissent sur un tapis noir et remplissent l’espace. Autour de ces masses pesant quelques centaines de kilos chacune, quatorze interprètes chinois s’activent à petits pas. Ils les poussent, les font ricocher lentement, construisant et déconstruisant des architectures abstraites aux arêtes vives.

Ces sept blocs correspondent aux sept pièces d’un jeu ancien chinois, type casse-tête, qui donne son titre au spectacle : les sept planches de la ruse, le qi qiao ban, autrement dit le tangram. Il se pratique avec cinq triangles, un carré et un parallélogramme aux tailles variées, qu’Aurélien Bory a grossi comme pour des joueurs géants. Le résultat scénique est un ballet acrobatique d’objets dont la méticulosité de manipulation est extrême. Un millimètre de décalage et le cube tombe à côté du triangle. Alternativement, on est suspendu aux interprètes en train de surveiller la rotation des pièces, puis fasciné par la pointe d’un triangle en train de chuter sur la tranche d’un rectangle.

C’est à Dalian (Chine) qu’Aurélien Bory a recruté ses acteurs, experts de l’Opéra de Pékin (mixte d’acrobatie, d’arts martiaux, de danse et de chant). Ils sont âgés de 18 à 58 ans. Sept sont retraités et c’est finalement leurs cheveux blancs, leurs visages un peu fanés, qui donnent à ce spectacle d’une grande beauté formelle sa dose de vulnérabilité. Une note de perplexité aussi, quant à l’exactitude des calculs mathématiques qui déterminent l’équilibre des pièces. Puzzle, jeu de construction proche de l’enfance (Aurélien Bory a d’abord travaillé sur une maquette), travail de marqueterie à grande échelle, Les Sept Planches de la ruse décline tous les assemblages possibles des morceaux. Là est sans doute la limite du système qui, une fois enclenché, perpétue sa ligne de conduite en y accrochant de très jolies acrobaties.

Et la ruse au fond là-dedans ? Peut-être réside-t-elle dans une articulation aiguisée de concepts éloignés. L’artisanat, le travail manuel des acrobates, proches de bâtisseurs, fait l’objet d’un traitement design, accentué par des lumières opalescentes. L’abstraction des volumes évoque aussi des images concrètes : soulèvements volcaniques, glissements de plaques tectoniques, construction de pyramides… On peut donc s’amuser avec ce Sept Planches de la ruse qui donne une envie : aller acheter un jeu de tangram pour apprendre ses règles.

Rosita Boisseau


Les sept planches de la ruse

Par Marie-Christine Vernay - 08 February 2008

Inspiré d'un puzzle chinois à géométrie variable, le spectacle "les Sept Planches de la ruse" est bluffant de poésie et de prouesse équilibriste.

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Aurélien Bory, 35 ans, directeur artistique de la Cie 111, après des études de physique, un diplôme de cinéma, une formation en acoustique architecturale puis en jonglage, est parti les mains dans les poches en Chine, à Dalian, ville portuaire entre la mer Jaune et la mer Bohai. Ce jongleur et metteur en piste n’avait aucune idée de ce qu’il allait trouver, déjà débarrassé des nombreuses chinoiseries qui encombrent les projets artistiques. Il s’est contenté de regarder et d’entrer en contact avec les artistes “locaux”. Mieux qu’à la Star Academy, les quatorzes interprètent qui se sont engagés à ses côtés excellent ausis bien à l’acrobatie qu’à la danse, au chant ou au jeu d’acteur. Il a choisi deux circassiens et douze acteurs de l’Opéra de Dalian. Chose peu commune, sept sont retraités, âgés de 45 à 58 ans, et c’est un des points essentiels de ce spectacle inouï.


En Chine, Aurélien Bory a découvert et expérimenté le tangram, ou qi qiao ban, qui signifie “les sept planches de la ruse” dont il titre le spectacle. Ce jeu antique décline les possibilités combinatoires de la géométrie. Casse-tête chinois, c’est le cas de le dire, ce puzzle comprend sept éléments, cinq triangles de trois tailles différentes, un carré et un parallélogramme qui s’épaulent pour composer des figures équilibristes. Ainsi le metteur en piste avait-il trouvé sa base : “Un territoire transculturel, dit-il, à travers les mathématiques, à la fois science fondamentale de le pensée chinoise et pilier de la culture occidentale.” Pas besoin d’autre argument dramaturgique ; une plongée dans le Livre des mutations ou Yi King, autre trésor de la culture chinoise, et le socle du spectacle était là. Aurélien Bory a ensuite expérimenté ces matières premières, vérifié sur maquette si ses propres ruses fonctionnaient. Ce n’est rien de dire qu’elles sont opérationnelles. Les Sept Planches de la ruse sont de toute beauté, grâce notamment à cette entente mathématique qui n’a pas besoin de mots pour communiquer. Les acteurs vêtus de noir s’affairent. Une minute d’inattention, un surpoids en trop, et le château des sept planches peut d’écrouler…


Cela pourrait renvoyer aux constructions du Bauhaus d’Oskar Schlemmer, ou à la sphère de Laban. mais nous ne sommes pas dans la danse, dans la composition chorégraphique. Le corps est ici tenu à la prouesse et au défi. Les acrobates réalisent des équilibres sur des surfaces elles-mêmes fragiles, au bord de la disparition. On passe, en fonction des lumières d’Arnaud Veyrat, d’un univers à l’autre, de la Chine ancienne à la Chine des gratte-ciels. La composition musicale de Raphaël Wisson opère le même voyage d’un siècle à l’autre. La chorégraphie joue des marches et met en valeur un détail, un petit geste d’art martial par exemple, pour mieux passe à autre chose. Quant aux interprètes, ils savent faire masse, corps commun construisant les architectures les plus audacieuses. Ils se distinguent aussi en des partitions personnelles ; descendant par exemple des pentes de plus de 80°. La scène telle une banquise qui explose en morceaux pour mieux se reconstruire, est comme une métaphore de la place Tiananmen. La foule est là. On se dresse contre un char. Si l’exercice est mathématique au départ, il n’est est pas moins charnel sur scène. On ne quitte pas des yeux les interprètes, ni la musicienne souvent éjectée sur un petit bout de banquise, renversée.

Dans ce spectacle qui est un paysage changeant, rappelant la fragilité et la résistance lorsque l’un se glisse dans un interstice dangereux, on ne trouve pas de plage de tranquillité. C’est l’ “intranquillité” telle que la pensait Pessoa.


Marie-Christine Vernay


La force des mathématiques

Par Philippe Noisette - 15 January 2008

Les variations d'Aurélien Bory autour du tangram chinois font rimer la poésie visuelle avec la géométrie.

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Comme souvent dans le travail d’Aurélien Bory, la première image du spectacle donne le ton. Lorsque commence Les Sept Planches de la ruse, on entrevoit une femme à son erhu, le violon chinois à deux cordes, posée là sur des éléments du tangram. Ce jeu ancien est composé de sept éléments – cinq triangles de trois tailles, un carré et un parallélogramme. Bory en a fait réaliser un modèle plus grand que nature, des pièces de centaines de kilos et quelques mètres de hauteur. Passé l’effet de surprise façon ombres chinoises – les bien nommées – d’un horizon de fessiers, la mécanique se met en branle. Bien vite, le reste de la troupe de l’Opéra de Dalian, ville de Chine du Nord, va s’activer autour de la soliste, déplaçant dans un ballet somptueux les morceaux posés sur le plateau.

Géométrie en trois dimensions où l’humain doit trouver sa place. Au point de parfois se glisser entre les interstices laissés à vue. Une fois triangles et autres dressés, la scène a des allures de paysage de montagne avec sommets et grimpeurs. On escalade les parois, les descend également façon varappe. Plus d’une fois, la structure de bois vernis semble aspirer ces interprètes qui s’y risquent, défiant la force des mathématiques – il y a autant de possibilités que de côtés dans ces figures en scène. Aurélien Bory, après le moint, le plan et l’infini, se laisse aller avec délice à cet ouvrage combinatoire, trait d’union entre mode de pensée occidentale et culture chinoise. Et se régale.

Il a passé plusieurs mois à Dalian pour trouver les perles rares, des artistes venus du cirque ou de l’opéra. De 18 à 58 ans, son éventail est large, comme autant de familles recomposées. Il a dû lutter, on s’en doute, pour éviter le mimétisme des écoles d’art locales. Le résultat est soufflant : ces belles individualités ont une présence rare. Les images se succèdent comme dans un temps suspendu offrant de nouveaux espaces à l’imagination de Bory. Grand écart féminin qui épouse l’arête d’un triangle, suspension du bout des pieds dans le vide, accumulation de corps détachés des murs.

Pourtant, Les Sept Planches de la ruse va au-delà de la virtuosité. On sent bien que l’adresse est nécessaire mais pas suffisante aux yeux du metteur en scène de la Cie 111 ainsi transporté en Chine. Il fait chanter trois femmes, air populaire des années 1930 ou traditionnel de l’Opéra de Pékin. Il imagine une longue marche où se croisent comédien fantasque, gamin des rues ou apprenti Bruce Lee.

A Dalian, lors de la création du spectacle au théâtre municipal, les enfants riaient avant de prendre peur. Toute une gamme d’émotions parcourt ce tangram vivant. Au final, nous ne sommes pas certains d’avoir vu les individus dompter les sept planches en question, mais notre imagination a gagné d’autres confins méconnus. Ce frottement de cultures mis en oeuvre par Aurélien Bory et son équipe est comme une promesse sensible. La Chine des humbles est, on s’en doutait, plus belle que celle des puissants.



Philippe Noisette


More or less infinity

First Night

Par Donald Hutera - 13 January 2006

Watching it is like having your eyes and brain tickled for 70 minutes.

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The 2006 edition of the London International Mime Festival has got off to an asuspicious start with the latest work from Toulouse-based Compagnie 111. More or Less Infinity is just the sort of playful, stimulating and wordless visual theatre that the festival has been championing for close to three decades. Watching it is like having your eyes and brain tickled for 70 minutes.

The production is the third part of a trilogy exploring interactions between people, objects and movement in one, two and three dimensional space. The two previous pieces concentrated on the cube and the plane. The focus of Infinity is the line in all its variety – straight, curved, actual, virtual and human.

Steered by the American director Phil Soltanoff, the show is episodic, witty and often mesmerising. Near the start several neat rows of white rods descend slowly, like icicles, from above the stage. These free-floating wands assemble into various configurations – a giant X, a gaping maw. When a low, stark light passes before them they suggest a forest casting shadows behind itself.

It is not long before people, or selective parts of them, begin to appear. Armes sprout from discreet grooves in the floor ; they are another kind of line, as are the fingers of each hand.

The tone waxes comic and a tad bizarre. A lone male head connects with a body bent over ostrich-like into the floor. Another man rests his head upon an arm that scampers behind him down to his ankles, scratching as it goes. Such sight gags give way to new, athletic forms of pole dancing, suggesting both diversion and aggression.

Clad in business suits, the six performers carry and walk about upon bendy, rubber-tipped poles like office workers testing unknown skills. The lone woman turns the tables on the tentacular poles that threaten her. One man spins on a U-shaped while another wields one like a huge, hard yet undulant spaghetti noodle.

The show thrives on crack timing and the element of surprise. Long poles suddenly swing down like pendulums in a perfectly calibrated, canonic style. A clever shadow dance segues into slow-motion pole vaulting.

Towards the end one actor hauls away the enlarged video image of his face, and a glow-in-the-dark string figure is unravelled like a mummy.

The performance stays on the surface, but the play of ideas – about socialisation, perception and identity fragmentation in the digital age – makes for some dazzling fun.

Donald Hutera


More or Less Infinity, Queen Elizabeth Hall London

Par Sarah Hemming - 13 January 2006

And always the show treads a fine line between elegance and comedy

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This delightful show from Compagnie 111 and Phil Soltanoff, which kicks off the annual London International Mime Festival, brings a whole new meaning to pole dancing. It is the third in Compagnie 111’s trilogy of pieces exploring spatial concepts and, after the cube and the plane, the line takes centre stage.

The French company, directed by Soltanoff, opens the show with a lone trombonist, whose music appears to summon a line that creeps along the back wall. From then on, the performers share the stage with various lines, rods and poles, playing with them, fighting with them, aided by them, burdened by them.

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As the title suggests, the show uses the potential of the straight line to create images that touch on the way humans grapple with the concept of infinity – at one point all six performers appear to drag endless lines behind them – but more often it simply plays with sticks. And that is the appeal: it is endlessly, wittily ingenious but at its heart is a simple activity that has amused mankind since time began. So the performers experiment with the poles that come their way, spinning on them, bouncing on them, tottering about by using them as stilts. Soon there is rivalry, as those with smaller sticks attempt to keep pace with those who stride like giants on longer poles. One man’s discovery that he can make a line move by approaching it leads to an increasingly edgy duel between him and another man.

The company does a nice line in fusing old ideas with new technology: by using two lanterns they create a great new spin on shadow play; by scoring the stage with linear gullies they are able to double up to perform stunts such as crawling along after their own heads. They project their faces on to a huge screen of poles, creating an eerie, dismembered look. And always the show treads a fine line between elegance and comedy: one mesmerising scene has all six performers repeatedly gliding across the stage on giant poles, brilliantly defying gravity, until one suddenly stops and maroons its occupant high above the stage – that is poor line management, I guess.

Sarah Hemming


Aurélien Bory – Déclinaison des Possibles

Par Emmanuel Daydé - 01 May 2014

Le théâtre physique d'Aurélien Bory est aussi une métaphysique.

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Après avoir enfermé la danseuse japonaise Kaori Ito dans une forêt de fils dans Plexus, Aurélien Bory fait voler le Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger dans Azimut. Metteur en scène de la gravitation universelle et des odyssées de l’espace, ce jongleur céleste fait de l’acteur l’objet même de la dramaturgie. Piste aux étoiles pour un théâtre physique et métaphysique.

Echapper à la gravité

Au début du 19e siècle, le comte de Saint-Simon proposait de remplacer Dieu par la gravitation universelle. En faisant – dans son dernier spectacle Azimut – de l’acrobatie marocaine une pratique rituelle soufie qui ramène du ciel à la terre, Aurélien Bory aurait presque pu reprendre l’assertion a son compte. A condition de remplacer la gravitation par tout ce qui régit l’univers. Car, dit-il, “la scène est l’un des seuls domaines de l’art où l’on ne peut pas échapper à la gravité et aux lois de la mécanique générale”. Si ce n’est que Bory s’efforce de trouver des échappatoires à la théorie de la gravitation mécanique de Newton et défie, de manière à la fois volontaire et désespérée, le phénomène de l’attraction terrestre.

Dans l’univers de ce qu’il appelle son “théâtre physique”, les corps des danseurs, des jongleurs ou des acrobates refusent de tomber pour mieux s’élever. Leur saut est le vol d’Icare. Dans Erection, Pierre Rigal cherche à passer de la position couchée à la position debout. Dans Taoub et Azimut, le Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger marche sur les murs, escalade un quadrillage du ciel et édifie des pyramides humaines, où les dizaines de corps empilés cherchent à ne faire plus qu’un vers l’infini. Quant à Plexus, on voit à la fin du spectacle Kaori Ito tenter de remonter inlassablement le long des fils dans les hauteurs du plateau, pour rester chaque fois un peu plus comme suspendue – ou perdue – en apesanteur dans l’espace, personne ne vous entend crier. Sensible à la théorie de la relativité générale d’Albert Einstein, le metteur en scène prend en compte les déformations de l’espace-temps afin de renverser la gravitation traditionnelle. Dans l’espace, rien ne peut freiner un objet – encore moins un homme ou une femme. Si l’on reprend l’analogie développée par Einstein, l’espace peut alors s’apparenter à une toile, sur laquelle les corps exercent des plis. Ces plis selon plis trouent la courbure de l’espace-temps, comme le font les acrobates sur le grand tissu de Taoub, ou sur la bâche qui recouvre le bras mécanique de Sans Objet


Usant d’un imaginaire lié aux lois physiques, mariant avec aisance, effronterie et quasi-mysticisme le jonglage et les mathématiques, tout en faisant de la danse et de l’acrobatie des moyens neufs mis à la disposition de l’acteur, le théâtre physique d’Aurélien Bory renouvelle les formes en créant du vide et en étudiant l’espace. Apprenti chercheur en physique à Strasbourg avant de travailler dans un bureau d’études d’acoustique architecturale, Bory pensait avoir totalement rompu avec son passé scientifique lorsqu’il est devenu jongleur dans une école de cirque, puis acteur dans une troupe, finissant par fonder la Compagnie 111 à Toulouse. Mais lorsqu’il aborde la scène – le rectangle du plateau et le volume d’air correspondant -, tout lui revient en mémoire. Et c’est l’idée vertigineuse des trous noirs et de l’antigéométrie qui l’inspire pour son art vertical et combinatoire, aussi bien que la découverte du boson de Higgs, ce décalage d’énergie – enfin identifié comme “particule de l’espace” en 2012. Sans oublier le théâtre d’ombre, auquel l’avait initié son instituteur. Et bien sûr le théâtre grec, littéralement “l’endroit d’où l’on voit”, qui fait du théâtre non pas une pratique mais une relation.

En s’attachant au mouvement des objets et à la mécanique de l’espace, le metteur en scène cherche, comme Kleist, à décrypter la mécanique de la grâce. Le dramaturge allemand faisait, on le sait, l’éloge des marionnettes, qui ont l’avantage, disait-il, d’échapper à la pesanteur : “Elles ne savent rien de l’inertie de la matière, propriété des plus contraires à la danse, poursuivait l’écrivain. Car la force qui les soulève est plus grande que celle qui les retient à la terre.” Refusant toutefois d’être assimilé à un simple montreur de marionnettes – un vil Mangiafuoco directeur de petits Pinocchio -, Bory rompt avec l’inertie de la matière en faisant de l’acteur “celui qui fait”. “Le théâtre est certes régi par des lois physiques comme l’espace et la gravité, convient-il, mais aussi par la vie et la mort qui règnent sur chaque drame.”

La scène est un monde

S’il répugne à expliciter ces composantes sensibles – qu’il abandonne à la seule perception -, c’est afin de laisser le spectateur libre de sa propre interprétation. “Ne pas savoir ce que l’on va voir est certainement pour moi l’une des meilleurs façons d’aller au théâtre”, plaide-t-il. Il n’empêche : “Au théâtre, c’est notre semblable que l’on regarde. La scène est un monde. L’acteur se situe dans cet espace, et l’interrogation porte sur la place de l’homme dans le monde.” cette accession à l’intériorité invisible de l’être s’avoue particulièrement saillante dans les deux portraits de femmes qu’il a réalisés. Dans Questcequetudeviens?, la danseuse Stéphanie Fuster s’évertue ainsi à apprendre le flamenco, coincée dans l’espace confiné d’un Algeco, image d’une rupture passionnée et de son infinie solitude. Dans Plexus, Kaori Ito – danseuse (le mot n’existe pas en japonais) déplacée d’un continent à l’autre – disparaît progressivement dans sa prison cubique et ouverte de fils noirs, revenante fantomatique happée par le culte des ancêtres. Une même mélancolie décalée et teintée d’humour trouble ses solos masculins – que l’on pourrait qualifier d’autoportraits. Pierre Rigal tente de se relever pour marcher dans Erection, tandis que Vincent Delerm (qu’Aurélien Bory vient de mettre en scène, par amour de la chanson – ce “son de l’âme”) joue avec ses propres ombres dans les Amants parallèles : ” Comme si nous avions pratiqué dans des piscines parallèles la natation synchronisée…”

Ce théâtre minimaliste, en forme d’hommage au carré, au cercle, au cube, à la géométrie en général (y compris musicale), renvoie aussi au spectaculaire cinématographique de Gravity, le blockbuster américain d’Alfonso Cuaron : “Le grand spectacle, reconnaissait Mathieu Macheret dans les Cahiers du Cinéma, renoue ici avec des notions primitives de distance et de proximité, de coup impossible et de plénitude du temps.” Parce que la gravité universelle ne se trompe jamais, Aurélien Bory s’intéresse, comme Cuaron, à cette plénitude temporelle : “L’espace nous modèle, il est plus fort que nous : l’espace nous porte, puis l’espace nous engloutit. Dans ce laps de temps se situe l’humanité.” Une humanité qui a le visage de Sandra Bullock en docteur Ryan Stone, et celui de tous les danseurs, acrobates, chanteurs ou metteurs en scène, aux airs de “cosmonautes de la station Mir”, auxquels Bory fait appel. De sorte qu’il nous vient un soupçon quant au dieu caché de cette harmonie des sphères.

Loin de s’apparenter à une froide déclinaison des possibles mathématiques, ce théâtre existentiel pourrait bien prendre le relais des romances sans paroles du dernier Beckett. Celui des rites crépusculaires de Quad et de sa danse muette autour des angles d’un carré. Ou encore du ballet fantomatique du Dépeupleur, avec son large cylindre peuplé de captifs qui cherchent à remonter le long d’échelles (symboliques) pour tenter de rejoindre les “asiles de la nature”. L’être humain se confond alors avec la matière dont il est issu. Le théâtre physique d’Aurélien Bory est aussi une métaphysique.


Emmanuel Daydé


A being and neon

Par Armelle Héliot - 14 April 2007

Compagnie 111 offers a very special universe and this show comes to us like an aesthetic manifesto.

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The young artists of Compagnie 111, a highly original Toulouse company, have put on a show that’s full of movement. The company, far from pursuing overarching box office receipts and trends, entertainingly searches for certain effects, simple in appearance yet very sophisticated in conception.

It all begins magnificently with a ballet of batons which the subtly regulated lights (Arno Veyrat) disguise as neon tubes. The geometric patterns in space which develop in this opening are absolutely fascinating and we immediately fall under the spell of Aurélien Bory, the designer of Plus ou moins l’infini, and the director, Phil Soltanoff. For them, kinetics is king. No words, a little music (it is signed Soltanoff), and Alenda and Cassier, two of the performers, a stage ploughed with furrows, five boys and a girl in grey costumes, four equally important people in the production unit, and the die is cast: the ballet enthrals us. The actions are simple, but they are executed with a grace and lightness that draw laughter from children and adults alike. There is mischief and charm about them, work, discipline, inventiveness and renewal. For while this young team does call to mind some groups of artists on the borderline between dance, circus and theatre, who know how to use video to perfection,

Compagnie 111 offers a very special universe and this show comes to us like an aesthetic manifesto. It’s our good fortune that these young teams provide such enchantment, yet with a very contemporary vocabulary.

Armelle Héliot


Ligne 111

Par Bruno Masi - 10 December 2005

Un magnifique spectacle minimaliste où architecture et géométrie s'invitent sur scène.

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A Sceaux, la compagnie de cirque 111 offre avec «Plus ou moins l’infini» un magnifique spectacle minimaliste où architecture et géométrie s’invitent sur scène.
Jamais un spectacle de cirque n’aura débuté d’une manière aussi radicale et bouleversante. Durant les cinq premières minutes de Plus ou moins l’infini, imaginé par la Compagnie 111, aucun être humain ne monte sur scène. Seuls des bâtons suspendus, animés d’un même mouvement, dessinent des formes dans le vide. Le bruit des tringles et des fils coulissants meuble le silence. Les lumières incandescentes, bleues ou rosées, donnent du volume à ces rangées de mâts qui s’inclinent ou se dressent, avant de rejoindre les cintres et de rendre le plateau à l’obscurité. Seulement alors, des mains sortent du plancher.

En janvier 2003, la compagnie 111 présentait Plan B, une formidable variation autour de l’idée géométrique du plan, inclinable ou non: les acrobates glissaient sur le mur, jonglaient sans balles mais avec des sons, puis finissaient au sol dans une réjouissante joute kung-fu retransmise sur un écran géant. Un cirque visuel et frigorifique tirant plus de Matrix et de la culture nerd que des chapiteaux de voleurs de poules.

Dans Plus ou moins l’infini, il est à nouveau question de géométrie. Les Toulousains, tous passés par l’école de cirque du Lido, ou par le Centre national des arts du cirque de Châlons-en-Champagne, couplant à leurs formations artistiques des études de physique et d’acoustique, optent cette fois pour la ligne.
Mise en scène par Phil Soltanoff (le directeur artistique de Mad Dog, une compagnie de théâtre expérimental basée à New York), cette nouvelle création explore les possibilités de mouvement dans l’espace exigu. Puis s’attaque à la ligne comme à son pire ennemi ; jusqu’à la tordre, la briser ou l’effacer. Au beau milieu, un peloton d’hommes (et une femme) évolue en costumes-cravates, sortes de business class dont toute pensée aurait été traduite en algorithme.

Si le cirque contemporain entretient depuis plus de vingt ans d’étroites relations avec le théâtre et la danse, c’est dans l’architecture, les arts plastiques et les sciences, que les six comédiens ont trouvé ici matière à dérivations. L’installation Op’art inaugurale, la lumière stroboscopique qui fige les mouvements, et les mâts auxquels s’agrippent les acrobates pour décrire une course au ralenti, multiplient les sens possibles. Un mur de perches blanches apparaît en fond de scène. Des mains se glissent dans les interstices et lancent des anneaux phosphorescents. Dans la nuit, une partie de Space Invaders semble débuter.

Plus ou moins l’infini est un spectacle de son temps, conçu par une génération de trentenaires dont les références viennent autant de la télévision et des jeux vidéo que des traités sur l’équilibre à dix mètres du sol.

Du cinéma aussi, avec ces effets permanents d’apparition, ces collages de silhouettes en ombres chinoises, ou ces défis convoquant Star Wars et les jeux de tennis sur console Atari. Dans ce panoptique, la musique bruitiste synthétique joue comme un climatiseur monté à l’envers : elle refroidit ce qui déjà paraît glacial. Les lignes projetées sur l’écran, figurées par les bâtons ou incarnées par les corps à l’horizontale, se transforment en courbes du CAC 40. Les droites s’incurvent et les bâtons sont moins rigides. Debout sur des patins, les acrobates glissent en travers de la scène comme des curseurs. Même conceptuel, ce cirque garde pour moteur l’idée de défi, humain ou technologique. Une image chasse l’autre, plus énigmatique, ou fugace. Une dernière ligne apparaît sur le mur. Lentement, l’obscurité la ronge et l’éteint.

Bruno Masi



Come fly with me

Par David Dougill - 23 April 2006

"Pretty and witty" : Collectif Acrobatique de Tanger

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The presence of a large number of young children in an audience can be either a delight or an irritation. At last Sunday’s performance of charming acrobatic and visual-illusion show, Taoub, by the Collectif Acrobatique de Tanger at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the balance was definitely on the plus side, once an initial spate of deliberate, infectious and high-pitched coughing had been stifled by the thrills on view. A small girl in front of me piped up after a spectacular number : « That was cool. »

Taoub, the UK debut for this company of 12 performers (ten men and two women) was the main event of the South Bank’s annual Easter Delirium weekebd of family-friendly entertainment, chich has previously focused on the physical and visual fantasies of Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu and James Thiérrée, the anarchic excitement of Circus Oz and Rennie Harris’s hip-hop extravaganza.

This event had a different flavour, not just being Moroccan – with tents outside selling that country’s food and artefacts – but in the artists’ casual demeanour and appearance.

For all the high skill and taut timing, there is an impromptu feel about it, as if these people in variegated ordinary clothes had stopped off from their local jobs to do party tricks in a marketplace for their own and the tourists’ pleasure. One man dressed all in spruce black could be a head waiter, but he dazzles us with accelerating cartwheels done in a perfect circle. Another, I guess the oldest in a mixed-age range, who supports a five-person pyramid on his burly shoulders, wears a formal shirt and tie (most unusual garb for someone engaged in acrobatics), looking like a well-to-do businessman who has left his jacket on the office chair. I take him to be the paterfamilias among five members of the Hammich family, acrobats for many generations, whom the French contemporary-circus director Aurélien Bory – the deviser of this show – spotted practising on a Tangier beach. The seven other performers were recruited by audition. They accompany their physical activities with Arabic sond and music, punctuated at moments of particular concentration by concerted shouts of a phrase that sounds oddly like « on the bus », but is surely someting completely different in Arabic.

What gives Taoub its slickness as a theatrical spectacle is Bory’s ingenious deployment of light, video and fabric. When the women walk at a dizzy height across the raised hands of the men, the latter are wearing white jellabas on which is projected the Tangier coastline. Neat. The taoub of the title is a huge, billowing white cloth that functions in many ways : as a backlit gauze on which turnbling and multiple somersaults are done by magnified figures in shadow silhouette ; and as a screen on which the front-stage acrobatic coupling of two men is live-projected. The image is frozen and upended by the cameraman – which position the performers study and meticulously reproduce. Clever. The cloth also becomes a steep sand dune, up which a gil steps delicately to sit, play, bounce and sink, supported, of course, by invisible hands. Pretty and witty.

What had everybody of all ages glued and gasping was the trampoline speciality, the soloist acrobats soaring and spinning ever higher, bounced on a springy cloth like a fireman’s blanket held by the rest, who rushed about, when necessary, in perfect unison (keeping the cloth stretched taut, but near the floor) to catch the descent. At the end of the show (ideal, at an hour, for attention span), this cheerful troupe, in their curtain calls, seemed as affectionately appreciative of the enthusiastic audiance as we were of them.

David Dougill



Par Judith Mackrell - 18 April 2006

The performers' daring is beautifully framed by the visual fantasies with which Bory, as director, has packaged parts of the show.

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Director Aurélien Bory first spotted the cast of Taoub training on a beach in Tangier, and such is the charm of this intimate little circus show that you almost believe its performers never really left home. The 12 acrobats, who range in years from adolescence to late middle age, occupy the stage with the unhurried, dreamy style of people simply enjoying themselves. None has the practised expression or slick demeanour of a trained theatre person.

Yet it takes only five minutes for these performers to prove that they are the business. With an insouciant brilliance, they fill the stage with multiple backflips, dizzying cartwheels, perilous human pyramids and vaulting trampoline stunts. What’s doubly exciting is that they do it with so little technology. Most of the music comes from their own singing and playing, and their equipment couldn’t be more basic. Even the trampoline is handheld, so that when one of the acrobats is hurtling through space, the others are having to run across the stage in order to catch them as they descend.

It’s terrifying to watch. But the performers’ daring is beautifully framed by the visual fantasies with which Bory, as director, has packaged parts of the show. During some of the routines, surreal, unexpected images are projected on to the acrobats’ bodies, dramatically rewriting the moment. As a woman clambers across a bridge formed by the crossed hands of her colleagues, pictures of the Tangier sea-front ripple over the supporters’ white tunics, turning her act into a Spiderwoman stunt. Hallucinogenic desert landscapes are created by manipulating a huge swathe of fabric, and simple changes of lighting work extraordinary transformations, so that a whirling dervish dance ends up being performed by giant shadows – flickering dream devils.

I started out wondering if Taoub would be a little slow, a little strange for some of its very young audience. But everyone was spellbound.

Judith Mackrell


Taoub, le tapis volant nouvelle manière

Par Marie-Pierre Genecand - 04 September 2008

Un spectacle chaleureux, inventif et métissé.

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Le théâtre de Vidy ouvre sa saison avec un spectacle marocain d’acrobaties sur tissu qui secoue l’imaginaire.

Ca s’écrit taoub, mais se prononce tsaoub. Tissu en arabe. Pour tous ces foulards, tapis et toiles de parachute qui étoffent ce spectacle d’ouverture du Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne. Mais aussi pour le tissu social. Aurélien Bory, artiste français du nouveau cirque qui signe ce travail, insiste sur le caractère inédit de la démarche qui donne à ces génies des airs un véritable statut. “Pour la première fois, on a marié la tradition de l’acrobatie marocaine et la notion de création artistique.”

Jusque-là, ces douze acrobates, de véritables virtuoses techniques, accomplissaient leurs prouesses sur les places publiques, sans volonté d’innover. Ils imitaient leurs ancêtres qu’ils avaient vu ainsi virevolter et passaient ensuite le chapeau parmi les badauds. Cette pratique, propre au Maroc, existe toujours. Mais il y a cinq ans, Sanae El Kamouni, séduite par la richesse de cet art populaire, a mandaté Aurélien Bory pour créer avec eux un spectacle plus élaboré. Aux acrobaties, il mêle la vidéo, le chant, la musique et les ombres chinoises.

Taoub ne raconte pas une histoire linéaire, mais rassemble des moments de poésie, comme cette séquence où les acteurs en djellaba blanche se placent côte à côte, de dos, et forment une muraille sur laquelle sont projetées des images de paysages et de visages. La musique, entièrement jouées en scène, associe chants et mélodies populaires. Et l’humour vient aussi questionner cet art ancestral. Au total, un spectacle “chaleureux, inventif et métissé”, salue la critique française.

Créé en 2003 à Tanger, ce spectacle a immédiatement séduit le public de la médina et tourne depuis. Quelque 300 représentations dans près de 20 lieux. Un succès qu’Aurélien Bory et le Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger n’ont pas volé. “Au début, les acrobates ne comprenaient pas ce frottement entre tradition et invention. Ils ne voyaient pas ce que je voulais amener à leur pratique, explique l’artiste français.

Heureusement, Sanae El Kamouni était là et a servi de courroie de transmission entre eux et moi.” Ainsi, flic flac, sauts périlleux et autres cabrioles se sont intégrés dans une poétique mystérieuse où les robes s’allongent et les corps s’étirent. Pour le prochain spectacle du Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, ce sont les Suisses Martin Zimmermann et Dimitri de Perrot qui s’aventureront sur ces terres, ou plutôt dans les airs, de ce collectif secoué.

Marie-Pierre Genecand


Acrobaties Orientales

Par Jean-Luc Martinez - 28 May 2008

Un spectacle original qui mêle son approche du cirque contemporain à la pratique ancestrale de l'acrobatie marocaine.

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« Taoub » d’Aurélien Bory pour deux soirs à Odyssud

Avant de retrouver le grand plateau du TNT, la saison prochaine, pour présenter sa nouvelle création « Les Sept planches de la ruse » avec les artistes chinois de l’Opéra de Dalian, Aurélien Bory continue à métisser son art d’une pointe d’exotisme.

L’artiste et metteur en scène toulousain présente, vendredi et samedi, deux représentations de « Taoub ». Un spectacle original qui mêle son approche du cirque contemporain à la pratique ancestrale de l’acrobatie marocaine. On retrouve parmi la troupe, la famille Hammich, acrobates de pères en fils depuis sept générations. « Taoub » sui signifie « Tissu » en arabe, entrelace des fils de plusieurs expressions artistiques comme le cirque, le théâtre, la vidéo et le chant. Un gigantesque tissu est l’unique accessoire et décor de ces artistes. Tour à tour écran, tente, robe, toile de parachute, trampoline, ce partenaire inattendu devient élément de propulsion, happe les acrobates dans des mouvements circulaires, sculpte leurs corps, défie l’apesanteur et catapulte l’imaginaire de chacun au-dessus du sol. Cette nouvelle invitation au voyage féerique est proposée par Aurélien Bory dont les spectateurs toulousains sont les témoins privilégiés de l’évolution d’un travail sous forme de trilogie, débuté au Théâtre de la Digue avec « IJK », poursuivi au Théâtre Garonne avec « Plan B » et finalisé au TNT avec le magnifique « Plus ou moins l’infini ». La Cie 111, dont il est le chef de file est, aujourd’hui, la troupe toulousaine qui s’exporte le plus à travers le monde. Aurélien Bory a inventé une forme nouvelle de métissage des genres artistiques qui repose sur une grande maîtrise technique tout en offrant de la magie poétique.

Jean-Luc Martinez


The image factory

Par Dominique Duthuit - 19 December 2007

Taoub is a kaleidoscopic voyage through Morocco.

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In Morocco, acrobatics were originally a warrior tradition. Handed down from generation to generation, they have become an art form that has never before been featured in a theatrical performance. Director Aurélien Bory discovered 12 excellent acrobats in Tangiers, formed around the Hammich family of seventh-generation acrobats. Taoub, which means “fabric”, is their first show, and a totally new experience! The acrobats’ bodies, like the threads of a single piece of cloth, merge to tell bits of private, social, cultural and universal history.

On an empty stage, white pieces of fabric are their only accessory, moving and transformed as a floor, awning, blanket, tent, trampoline or garment, paying tribute to women, modifying their identity, inhabiting magical or real worlds, in the tradition of acrobatic feats and local festivals. As they merge, each acrobat becomes a link in a veritable image factory. Skilled craftsmen, they weave homogenous worlds with the most varied materials: their bodies, video, light, voice and music.

Twelve Moroccan acrobats invite the audience to discover their land.


Taoub is a kaleidoscopic voyage through Morocco. Without ever exploiting the acrobats’ skills, Aurélien Bory invents fun and innovative situations that break down the clichés on this country. Initially all dressed alike as members of an austere fraternity, the troupe changes costumes, becoming modern men and women. As they play with light, video and fabrics, they draw the audience into a variety of landscapes, mountains, desert, sky and even fairs. The poetic and fantastic situations, the rigorous staging, the talented and complicit acrobats, and the beautiful traditional music are just some of the things that make this show, which has been circling the globe for the past three years, something really special.



Dominique Duthuit


Plan B

La precarietà? Una danza di yuppies su un grattacielo

Par Claudia Allasia - 07 November 2013

Diventa un best seller che gira il mondo senza sosta, mietendo giudizi entusiastici ovunque.

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Quattro irresistibili yuppies in giacca e cravatta si arrampicano con mille acrobazie sul grattacielo del successo. Grintosi, veloci, pieni di adrenalina, prendono la rincorsa e salgono in alto, senza mai aprire bocca. Su, sempre più su, nessuno li può fermare. Poi la morale: all’ improvviso, flop! Tutti giù per terra. Succede alle Fonderie Limone, dove Torino Danza presenta oggi, domani e sabato “Plan B.”, di Aurélien Bory e Phil Soltanoff, ultimo collaudatissimo spettacolo della stagione festivaliera 2013. Il grattacielo del successo è un piano inclinato che si modifica di continuo: primaa 45 gradi, poia 90e alla finea 180. È qui la scena rampante dei quattro eroi, è qui dove si compiono balzi, salti, giravolte, acrobazie ma anche clownerie e azioni mimiche, secondo il plot astratto del nouveau cirque che mischia con disinvoltura e coraggio arte visiva, danza, musica e mimo, in un assurdo, quindi divertentissimo contrasto che genera risultati inattesi e pieni di humour. Il duo Bory& Soltanoff teorizzae pratica esclusivamente un teatro in cui ogni gesto, prodezza tecnica o disciplina sia strettamente dipendente dalla forza di gravità, dai limiti dello spazio e dalle capacità fisiche degli interpreti. Lo hanno realizzato in “Plan B.” ma anche in altri capolavori creati per la loro 111éme Compagnie (oppure in “Erection”, composto per il bravissimo artista Pierre Rigal, molto applaudito a TorinoDanza nel 2009). Tutto è iniziato con Aurilien Bory: francese, nato a Toulouse nel 1972, studiava per diventare fisico. Appena diplomato invece, sorprendendo tutti, è diventato un giocoliere. Di lì a poco, sognando di unire la danza al teatro d’ ombre e la magia allo spazio scenico, ha fondato la 111éme Compagnie. Ma per dimostrare di essere ancora nel campo dei suoi studi, ha iniziato a riflettere sul fatto che il teatro è la sola arte che non sfugge alle leggi della fisica. Qualche anno dopo, nel 2003, Aurélien incontra il regista newyorkese specializzato in teatro di ricerca Phil Soltanoff. Immediatamente si crea un sodalizio indistruttibile. Insieme, progettano lo spettacolo “Plan B.” (quello che vedremo questa sera alle Fonderie). Il debutto avviene ancora nel 2003 e ottiene un grandissimo successo. Diventa un best seller che gira il mondo senza sosta, mietendo giudizi entusiastici ovunque. Il segreto del gradimento? Rappresenta benissimo la precarietà e la disinvoltura multitasking del tempo presente: non c’ è nessuna definitiva certezza. Tutto è soggetto al cambiamento, tutto può accadere. E tanto vale prendere le cose come vengono, con eleganza, nonchalancee divertimento.

Claudia Allasia


Aurélien Bory’s Plan B: the opening ceremony we didn’t see

Par Jasper Rees - 14 January 2013

The name of the creative genius lauded abroad would be not Danny Boyle but, perhaps, Aurélien Bory.

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He lost out on London 2012 to Danny Boyle but now Aurélien Bory is coming to the capital with Plan B, his new mime extravaganza, says Jasper Rees.


It may now seem like imagining the impossible, but let’s pretend that on that fateful date the city that came out of the sorting hat was not London but Paris. The name of the creative genius lauded abroad would be not Danny Boyle but, perhaps, Aurélien Bory.

Bory is a theatre-maker whose style of witty, intellectual communication through physical movement could emanate, one suspects, only from France. Nationality did not prevent him pitching for the opening ceremony gig. He invited Bill Morris, London 2012’s director of culture, ceremonies and education, to see his work at the Barbican.

“I insisted,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I’m a candidate!’ He said, ‘I’m very sorry, I can’t.’ One of his assistants came. But I had no news.”

The show was Les Sept Planches de la Ruse, a mesmerising ballet featuring a group of Chinese performers wielding a series of geometrical shapes, and it was the star attraction of the London International Mime Festival 2009. Every January, the festival throws up extravaganzas from wordless theatre, and most years showcase Bory. The 2013 festival is no different.

Plan B is actually a revival and, as ever with Bory’s work, mime is not the word for a show which charms and seduces by mingling the playful grammar of circus with theatre’s commitment to meaningful story. The idea is beguilingly simple. A large rectangular plane fills the stage. In the first section it hangs at a 30-degree angle, like a giant slide. In the second it moves into the vertical and becomes a wall. And lastly it lies flat, while the action performed horizontally on the stage is projected on to a screen. And in these three states, four clowning acrobats dressed in suits and ties tumble and juggle, clamber and roll, in a series of intricately structured narratives that tell of the relationship of mind and body with their surroundings and, depending on the angle of the plane – 30 degrees, zero or 90 – with gravity.

“It is a hybrid work,” explains Bory, “about the relationship between human beings and space. Humans need to adapt to space, so they discover new situations. Even when it’s going well, then it changes: they face a completely new situation.”

If any such exegesis will have you backing away warily, please stand easy. Plan B is wonderfully funny. If anything, the chin-stroking seriousness is supplied by Bory’s American co-director, Phil Soltanoff. They make for an odd couple, sitting next to each other in a Place du Châtelet café. The Frenchman is tall and sinuous, the American small and wiry. What they have in common is wide-eyed enthusiasm.

“The genius of the piece is that you’re watching acrobatics in slow motion,” Soltanoff adds, “but the effect of the gravity is something the audience and performers can all agree on. That makes for the pleasure of it and that’s what’s difficult about it.”

Bory and Soltanoff met in 1998, when the latter led a workshop near Toulouse in which Bory, a circus performer, was taking part. Two years later Bory had an idea for his first show, called IJK, but felt he couldn’t invite Soltanoff to co-direct. “I thought, it’s too soon – I have done nothing and it’s not a collaboration if you have done nothing.” They kept in touch whenever Bory visited New York, and the idea of Plan B arose.

“Along comes Aurélien and this briefcase and he pulls out this scenery,” recalls Soltanoff. “That really interested me. I felt we were kindred spirits. And I don’t find that very often.”

Having spent a lifetime working in the unsubsidised fringes of experimental theatre, the summons to France promised a new world of funding. He visited Toulouse three times across a 24-week period of research and development. His job was to be the outside eye.

“I needed someone like Phil who understands art,” says Bory. “It’s easy to make a show. I wanted to make a piece.” The piece – by which Bory means a work of art – was premiered on January 10, and for its 10th-anniversary performance at the Théâtre du Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysées, Bory, 40, will come out of retirement to join the cast.

There are plans to revive their next show, Infinity, More or Less, but for the moment it’s Plan B that’s heading back to London. Theatregoers can see what London 2012 missed out on.

What did Bory make of Boyle’s opening ceremony? “It was impressive,” he says, “part of it was good, but the Olympics have to be about the glory of the nation. All this part is very boring. My favourite part was Mr Bean. I loved what he did.” Imagine Bean with a PhD. That’s Plan B. Go.

Jasper Rees


Des Sisyphe modernes

Par Anaïs Heluin - 10 January 2013

Dans Plan B, Aurélien Bory utilise le cirque comme arme contre le désenchantement.

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Un plan incliné tout lisse, tout gris, austère. Autour, un vide dévoreur de silhouettes masculines, celles des quatre circassiens choisis par Aurélien Bory pour incarner, dans Plan B, l’humanité égarée dans un labyrinthe sans issue.

A leurs cravates bien ajustées sur des costumes taillés à leur exacte mesure, à leur petit attaché-case qui tranche avec le décor irréaliste, on saisit vite dans quel type de dédale d’abord invisible à l’oeil nu se pressent les jeunes cadres du spectacle. Assemblage complexe de règles à suivre afin de se frayer un chemin dans le marché mondial et de lois virtuelles incontournables pour le moindre pion du système économique, ce dernier est figuré par un dispositif scénique des plus ingénieux.

Car derrière l’apparente simplicité

de la structure initiale se cachent des mécanismes sophistiqués, impitoyables. D’abord perturbée par l’ouverture de simples trappes d’où sortent des balles de jonglage, l’immobilité de la masse métallique laisse peu à peu place à un mouvement perpétuel. Plus encore que les quatre interprètes, c’est d’abord cette paroi modulable, tour à tour pente métallique, mur à l’aspect carcéral et écran de projection, qui construit la trame narrative de Plan B. Mathieu Bleton, Itamar Glucksmann, Jonathan Guichard et Nicolas Lourdelle, tels des Sysiphe des temps modernes, ne font que s’adapter aux épreuves successives que leur impose le géant de fer. A grand renfort de glissades, de pirouettes, d’acrobaties en tout genre. Et sans un mot.

Qu’aurait de toute façon pu faire la parole contre une menace faite de codes informatiques dépourvus d’affects ? Pas grand-chose, c’est sûr. Alors Aurélien Bory, assisté en cela par le metteur en scène Phil Soltanoff, aussi adepte que lui du métissage entre les arts de la scène, a imaginé pour sa troupe un mode d’expression singulier.

Arsenal de défense

contre la carcasse transformable, autrement dit contre une société défigurée à force de métamorphoses, ce langage gestuel est aussi théâtrale que circassien. Dénué de tout spectaculaire, il est composé de numéros apparemment très simples, puisés dans le répertoire de base de tout acrobate. Mais, au contact de la paroi hostile à la présence humaine, ces jongles et cabrioles acquièrent une grandeur, une dignité propres à imposer le respect. Si leur côté dérisoire ne manque pas d’amuser, il oppose aussi une résistance au désenchantement du monde. Il fait un pied de nez à la face trop sérieuse de la productivité à tout prix et de son pendant, la consommation à tout-va. Comme quoi, dans un univers régi par l’absurde, l’art du cirque et le burlesque peuvent être le lieu d’une grande gravité.

Anaïs Heluin



Par Emmanuelle Bouchez - 05 January 2013

Plan B: a skilful balance between a circus and dance.

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A solid show on a moving plane! With this paradoxical work created ten years ago, Aurélien Bory, trained in circus arts, burst on to the experimental theatre scene. By putting jugglers and acrobats to the test on a steep slope littered with trapdoors, he skilfully manipulated perspective effects and physical feats. Now, back with a new cast, Plan B is as fresh as ever and is probably the highlight of Compagnie 111’s repertoire.

Under lighting that shifts from grey to apple green, men in suits and ties stand tall at the summit of the slop before sliding down without a peep, sometimes head over tail. Despite their right-angled bodies, these modern Sisyphuses, who slide down only to climb back up again, reveal a true gift for quick recoveries. As they perform their moves, they struggle like solitary electrons against gravity and end up defying it in an amusing way: bouncing their juggling balls in the depths of trapdoors that suddenly open up, walking on the walls or adhering themselves to it in a tender embrace. Most of all, they confuse our points of reference.

A new kind of burlesque, both graphic and funny.

Emmanuelle Bouchez


“Plan B”: ten years off balance

Par Rosita Boisseau - 04 January 2013

Plan B sometimes creates a strange sort of addiction.

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Aurélien Bory and Phil Soltanoff bounce back at the Rond-Point theatre


Changing axis, breaking verticality, adopting a sideways position… Aurélien Bory and Phil Soltanoff bent over backwards to come up with their Plan B, a play for four men, acrobats and jugglers. That was back in 2003. Bory, trained as a juggler, wanted to run away from the circus; Soltanoff, a stage director, dreamt of more physical theatre. Together, they raised the stage, creating one on an incline like a children’s slide. That was the beginning of Plan B, and let the sliding begin!

This tilted stage, which as the show progresses takes various positions and undergoes various transformations, forces the body to constantly adapt in order to maintain balance. Finding new points of support, and playing with it to explore totally new physical situations, makes Plan B spin at top speed. Just for the pleasure of expressing pure vitality and playing to find a solution to every problem, the performance, with its many drawers and pitfalls, lives up to its authors’ ambitions.

With a scientific spirit and a poetic fire, torn between observation and contemplation, the Bory-Soltanoff pair of artists, no matter how smitten they are by space, make humans the focus of their study, observing our ability to bounce back in a moving and more or less dangerous environment. The inclined wall becomes, like a circus apparatus—despite Bory’s most valiant efforts, the dance floor is never far away—the ideal vector for a close dialogue during which the human being is constructed in his relationship with others and with the world. Even if this means choosing not to stretch out a hand to a friend in trouble at the bottom of the wall!

A curious addiction

Plan B turns the stage into a zone of all kinds of traffic. Body, movements, as well as juggling balls and images filmed live, flow in a stream of actions and reactions, gags and counter-gags. Underscored by a gentle burles­que that’s almost elliptical in the way it slides into the cracks before tipping into outright comedy, Plan B sometimes creates a strange sort of addiction, at the risk of seeming like a cheap string of feats.

By offering up a different perspecti­ve of verticality and gravity, Plan B plays with the spectator’s perception, who views this gently sloping world while constantly trying to set it straight. This back-and-forth between what we see and what we know to be true becomes an exercise in visual geometry. We appreciate the angles of attack as well as the acrobats’ amazing contortions, as they create illusions with fierce determination.

 Plan B is the baby of Aurélien Bory, former student of physics and architectural acoustics. He has also created a distinctive style: each of his shows takes on exuberant staging. Whether it’s the enormous robot in Sans objet (2009), brought to life by two cosmonauts orbiting around it, or a big top under the big top in Géométrie de caoutchouc (2011), manipulated by eight actors, Bory works hard to find as many configurations as possible to solve a single equation. On 10 January, Plan B will celebrate its tenth anniversary with its original cast composed of Olivier Alenda, Alexandre Rodoreda, Loic Praud and Aurélien Bory.

Rosita Boisseau



Magical jugglers on the South Bank

Par Judith Mackrell - 25 January 2002

The exquisite reflexes of the performers, combined with the adroit editing of their material, make IJK an entrancing little show.

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All great juggling acts reach a point when the performer no longer seems to be is charge of the juggling balls, but simply a witness to their miraculous, independant flight. In Compagnie 111’s show, IJK, this point occurs very early on. But it doesn’t feel like an illusion created by timing and dexterity – the balls actually behave as if they are in control.

The conceipt that drives this production is juggling as music. On a cleverly amplifieds set, created out of variously sized wooden boxes, the three French performers bounce and catch their juggling balls in a dazzle of precise, percussive rhythms. By varying the distance throw, the angle at which the balls hit the boxes, the force with which they rebound from one surface to another, this expert trio can control an extraodinarily complex array of riffs and counterpoint. So controlled that in the opening section, when Anne de Buck plays an old circus tune on her accordion, Aurelien Bory can add a perfect rhythms section with his juggling balls.

It’s a duet of enormous wit and charm, but then some of the balls start to set their own agenda. They bounce back at Bory with impossible force and, in defiance of all laws of physics, start to maintain their own movementum, ricocheting between two boxes without any loss of energy.

Just as you’re trying to figure out the engineering behind this, more balls launch into flight from inside the largest box. Bory fields them bravely into his own airy pattern, and it’s all so subtly managed that for a while you believe the balls possess some kind of magic.

It’s only when tiny Olivier Alenda eases himself gracefully out of the box that you accept he must have been sitting there all along – the invisible extra hands – controlling the routine.

Like all good tricks, discovering the secret doesn’t diminish the wonder. Even if nothing else measures up to this opening routine, Compagnie 111 still keep us staring with a deft succession of acts. At one point the two men sit either side of an upturned box like a pair of gamblers – each juggling, and each raising the stakes with the speed and difficulty of their moves. At another point Alenda performs a breathtaking mix of juggling and flamenco, the five balls keeping perfect ime with his footwork. De Buck interpolates her aerial stunts, but the rhythmic thraed remains taut throughout, so that the whole show is one continuous flow of energy and sound. The exquisite reflexes of the performers, combined with the adroit editing of their material, make IJK an entrancing little show.

Judith Mackrell


Dance in Review

Par Gia Kourlas - 20 May 2008

Watch it through a child's eyes.

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Compagnie 111, New Victory Theater

When the French troupe Compagnie 111 last appeared in New-York in 2004, it brought a quietly captivating show, “Plan B”, that involved a fanciful well and spooky, illusionary tricks. It also possessed the sort of homespun imagination that hooked a child’s mind, yet appealed to adults.

While childlike and naïve, Compagnie 111 was never childish.

This physical-theater company has returned to the New Victory Theater with “IJK”, a 60-minute production that, frankly, seemed on Saturday to hold the most magic for the younger set (those under 10). The first work in a trilogy – which includes “Plan B” and “More or Less, Infinity” – “IJK” is a playful exploration of geometry and volume.

Conceived by Aurélien Bory, the company’s artistic director, the work is simply told through short scenes. Stripped on theatrical excess, “IJK” features Mr. Bory, Olivier Alenda and Anne de Buck, who rely on cubes, balls and, or course, the body to challenge ideas about perception and reveal the poetry behind physics.

“IJK” begins in the dark and gradually comes to life with Arno Veyrat’s lighting, which casts geometric shapes in cheerful greens ans oranges. Lines and angles – for instance, the way one cube tips sideways against another – figure in the work’s spatial design. After a while it becomes very “Sesame Street”.

As much as “IJK” relies on visual illusion, it is also an exploration of sound and rythm. In an early scene Ms. de Buck plays the accordion as bouncing balls add percussion ; later Mr Alenda juggles and dribbles balls while stomping out a brisk flamenco dance.

When compared with the memory of “Plan B”, the work is a disappointment. Bet “IJK” is never pretentious. When the tricks get tiresome, turn to a trick that works and watch it through a child’s eyes.

Gia Kourlas


IJK Géométrie Fantasque

Par Jean-Michel Guy - 02 January 2012

Le premier spectacle de la compagnie 111 s'intitule IJK. Des chiffres et des lettres, la couleur est annoncée : nous sommes dans un espace mathématique, dans un jeu de l'esprit.

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Aurélien Bory, Olivier Alenda et Kaja Wehrlin (récemment remplacée par Anne De Buck) se sont rencontrés sur L’Odyssée, création mémorable de Mladen Materic. Ensemble, ils ont créé la compagnie 111, du même nom que la dernière sonate révolutionnaire de Beethoven mais ici, on peut surtout l’entendre comme juxtaposition de trois particules élémentaires. Inspiré du Bauhaus, leur premier spectacle, IJK, mêle musique, théâtre non verbal, acrobatie et jonglerie dans une fantaisie plastique « abstraite ». La jonglerie en question est de trois types peu explorés ensemble jusqu’à présent : acoustique, géométrique et optique.


Des balles (des Kangourou, en caoutchouc, au pourcentage de rebond plus élevé que les balles en silicone et au son plus sec) viennent percuter les parois de trois parallélépipèdes de bois aux dimensions différentes, calculées pour produire trois sons distincts. On songe évidemment au fameux triangle de Michael Moschen et aux expériences déjà tentées (par Pierre Biondi notamment, ou par Franck Ténot de la compagnie Kabbal) pour tirer parti du rebond sur plan incliné, mais IJK systématise l’idée en la musicalisant à outrance. C’est qu’Aurélien Bory, avant d’être jongleur, fut architecte acousticien.


Rien de nouveau en apparence dans les trajets très graphiques que permettent les balles rebond. Ce qui l’est davantage, c’est l’effacement, voire l’absence totale du jongleur qui se contente en coulisse, ou dans le noir, d’imprimer un mouvement aux objets. A la suite de Michael Moschen, Jérôme Thomas avait déjà, dans Hic Hoc, transformé le jongleur en marionnettiste quasi-invisible et signifié de la sorte que la théâtralité propre du jonglage peut aisément se passer d’un jongleur « personnage » ou histrion. A la différence de cette pièce, qui créait des illusions cinétiques par l’entrelacs de courbes, IJK affirme le trait, assume l’angle.


Suivant une voie ouverte par Bernard Kudiak avec ses jongleries d’ombres, IJK compose au quatrième acte (il y en a cinq), un petit ballet de balles changeant de dimensions, donc de plan, derrière un écran blanc.

La scénographie se résume aux caisses de bois et à un long parallélépipède creux qui évoque l’huisserie d’une porte, au-dessus et au creux de laquelle évoluent les corps, eux-mêmes abstraits et graphiques, des trois acrobates. Des projections sur cyclorama de formes géométriques et d’ombres « pastel-soutenu » rappellent Delaunay, Mondrian, Klein, Malevitch ou Rothko. Mais l’oeuvre puise à des sources encore plus lointaines, car les jongleurs de 111 mettent en œuvre trois techniques de manipulation d’objets qui ne sont séparées les unes des autres qu’au XVIe siècle : la jonglerie aérienne, l’escamotage (devenu prestidigitation) et ce que je propose d’appeler, faute de mieux, le « bonneteau », c’est-à-dire une forme de « jonglage horizontal ».

L’oeuvre est un compromis, précaire mais réussi, entre la volonté de la compagnie 111 de tendre vers un formalisme désincarné et la mise en scène de Christian Coumin qui réintroduit l’humain dans cet univers abstrait, par le burlesque des situations, la connotation « cabaret » des costumes et la chaleur populaire de la guitare flamenco ou de l’accordéon. Le résultat est un mélange tout à fait inédit. Le spectateur passe constamment de la fascination contemplative à un mode plus théâtral de réception, du froid au chaud, du sec au fluide et du transparent au magique. La tension que ces « débrayages » incessants provoquent est curieusement d’ordre chorégraphique si, comme le voulait Alwin Nikolaïs, les danseurs sont des « tenseurs », des artisans de l’espace, du temps, de la forme et du mouvement.

La compagnie 111 prépare actuellement une nouvelle création, Plan B, qui comme son titre l’indique, traitera de l’espace à deux dimensions, de la programmation et du rechange.

Jean-Michel Guy