It’s easy to think of contemporary dance as being a little inaccessible – some people might even feel it’s elitist. The abstraction that movement implicates between the sensitive and the intelligible might get lost between the dancer’s toes and the viewer’s eyes, and let’s face it, some dance companies like to blur those lines. But that’s not the case of (LA)HORDE, a multidiscipline French collective created by three artists which introduces youth and amateurs to the world of contemporary dance. One of them, Marine Brutti, who comes from a contemporary art field, deeply believes in the importance of democratising contemporary art and modernising its codes. Building bridges between disciplines, Marine is opening the frontiers of the different art worlds – working with (LA)HORDE allowed her to create videos in which she explores the power of bodies and their representations within our society – using dance as a way to free movements from political and social pressure.
What was the initial idea behind (LA) HORDE?
We wanted to create an interactive structure that could represent us all as artists: Jonathan Debrouwer, Arthur Harel and I through different mediums may they be mise-en-scène, installation, video, choreography or performance. Quickly, we started to work together on different projects. The desire to set up a collective was driven by a common idea – to create in the shadow and let the performers be in the spotlight.
You created a piece based on the concept of "post-internet" dance.
Yes. Art often takes over words, creating new words in order to name artistic movements. Sometimes it can be quite funny, ‘Zombie Formalism’ was born through that process. The term post-internet is extremely relevant when it comes to performance, but somehow surprising that dance never took over that concept which is really linked to our practice. The internet gave us access to intimacy and we can observe people filming themselves in their bedroom while dancing and performing. It's a really powerful act of representation. Many types of dance were born on the internet, like Jumpstyle, that we are currently working on.
(LA)HORDE joins different disciplines together.
I think it's been quite an instinctive aspiration. We naturally explore different mediums like dance, contemporary art, cinema and senses. I never wanted to restrain myself to a single discipline because I believe in the plurality of bodies and stories. Currently, we are working on a video project for Lafayette Anticipation, Galeries Lafayette's art foundation, which will focus on cloud chasers.
Just before performing, dancers blow cigarette smoke into their performance space to create a cloudy atmosphere. But what we tend to forget is the mundane in the gesture of smoking. In turn, the choreography takes its roots in the functional and repetitive, almost mechanical gesture of smoking. As an artist and a choreographer, I try and find grace and beauty in alternative forms of dance and quotidian body movements. Smoke is often used on stage to give texture to the lights but it also disrupts our senses: people always cough in the audience, though smoke is totally harmless. Even our sense of smell is troubled with the vision of smoke. We often forget that dance can get a grip on every single sense, even smell. Smell can also be an inspiration for dance and can be transcribed into movements: I’ve always been fond of the smell of rubbers. When I was a kid, I used to play in my grandfather’s garage which was full of rubbers. It always reminds me of my childhood.
(LA)HORDE's dancers comprise seniors and teenagers. Those two generations and their bodies often lack visibility in our society.
If we have never had to fight conservative ideas in (LA)HORDE, between the three of us we certainly had to modulate and adapt our own perceptions of performance and responsibility. We want to free bodies from social and cultural standards. However, we are careful about not to fall into an opposite aesthetic that could also be questionable. The labels ‘senior’ or ‘teenager’ don't mean much to us. Our performers can be aged between 54 and 84. But a 70 year-old’s one can feel the youngest of the group and it wouldn't change the way we work with them individually. We try and work with all kinds of bodies. For our show, Night Owl, we decided to work with blind people and it was certainly our biggest challenge as choreographers. Dance is about feeling and directly engages the sense of sight. All performers were wearing fake augmented reality masks to let the audience imagine how blind people can feel and see the world differently from us – which, in a sense, is the case. In general, we try to let the performers be free of all rules and norms. And through freeing the performer, we also try and free the observer.
What is your own definition of femininity?
Femininity is an ambivalent term, conditioned by social and cultural codes. Femininity, for me, is like feminism: it’s not a question of gender. Anyone can take over his own definition of his/her femininity, to fight the establishment or, in contrast, to embrace social paradigms. Dance is a very powerful tool because bodies are fully committed. Movements and attitudes are dictated by our society and usually very limited. The performance space offers the possibility to let go, have fun, be angry or violent, in short, to break the rules. It’s amazing to see how bodies can adapt to different environments and change in accordance to them. The way you move depends on where you are, in a club bodies are free from social pressure and they interact with each other – shoulders, hands and hips slip against others. Our sense of touch is strengthened as there is no private space. We feel free to touch and get touched. Our next performance will focus on heterotopia, a concept elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault who analysed imaginative spaces involving the sensitive as the intelligible.
What role does music play in your different performances?
The three of us have a very particular connection to music. We always compose our own music for every show and often invite musicians on stage, like we did with the musician Adrien Soleiman. For our next Jumpstyle inspired show, our ambition is to interpret, in music, the sound of footsteps and their rhythm. On the other hand, I’m really attracted to music in film. Hans Simmer, who scored the soundtrack to Interstellar, is a hero of mine. Music can take the spectator throughout the narration even without the help of image sometimes.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It can sound a little bit cheesy but everywhere, in everything. You have to keep a very sharpened eye on everything that surrounds you in order to stop and transcribe reality into fiction, may your approach be transgressive or transcendental.