Interview: Yasmine Hugonnet: 'It's not like you should understand the image I wish to show you but you may let your imagination be free to wander'

Friday 8 December 2017

Yasmine Hugonnet - Recital des Postures. Image by Anne-Laure Lechat

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m a dancer, choreographer, researcher and more recently a ventriloquist. Born in Switzerland, I studied ballet, then moved to Paris to the National Superior Conservatory, and later in the Netherlands I did a Masters Degree in choreography. Between 2000 and 2009 I worked on various projects in several different countries, without being part of a company or having any subsidy. I mainly collaborated with Maxime Ianarelli, we worked as a loose collective working with local artists wherever we were.

Called Synalephe, we developed projects and site specific work and, very importantly learned from each other. Synalephe comes from Greek, the idea of two different entities coming together. Our work evolved in a sort of joyful idealism, artists from different backgrounds trying to create work together. In Taiwan, for example, we worked with blind artists, performing in the street, on trains, in galleries etc, not in theatres. We experimented with interactive performances, involving public participation. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, thanks to an artistic residency for young performers I was able to create a trio work, Re-play, with a wholly local team. We were invited to perform it at ImpulzTanz in Vienna.

In 2009 I created my company Arts Mouvementés in Lausanne Switzerland.

Your performing your work Le Récital des Postures at the Lilian Baylis Studio in the new year – tell us more about the work and how your creation process:

The Récital des Postures was premiered in March 2014 and since then we have toured this production extensively. It is a very important piece for me, almost a sort of manifesto, as it emerged after a long period of solitary research where my interest in tools for composition became very sharp.

The Récital is a form of concert for one musical instrument; here the instrument is the body. In a poetic way I think the postures are ‘singing’. They are not only providing a visual effect but at another level also vibrating and in the apparent stillness, they are producing movement in the spectator’s imagination.

The motif of research was that we should perform with intensity and abandon, in unison. Abandon isn’t just a physical state, it could be a mood, a dream, a letting go, a sensuous drift towards sleep. Our movement went towards the sensuous, towards almost violent upward motion.

I like to think of the performance as a choreographic rite: in the vibratory space between the performer and the spectator, one can witness the birth and the construction of a body. But this body is not that of a dancer, it is a symbolic body, archetypal, social, as well as a place of communication.

In the work, you execute ‘a series of postures and movements referenced in historic paintings, ancient sculptures, marionettes and everyday life’ – why that mix? What story are you hoping to share?

Let’s say that the piece is composed by a sculpting of a character. First it is only a very schematic body, with no face, lying horizontally. During the piece the body metamorphoses; slowly unfolding, then addressing, then gazing, playing before finally being given a voice.

The movement continues constantly whether it is visible or not, even in apparent immobility. This is what makes it possible for there to be movement “inside” the posture, to move the point of anchorage. The postures I collected are the vibrant ones, they are containers of several images and many potentialities. These very vibrant places may sometimes evoke a direct cultural and emotional reference point for spectators. It is not like you should understand the image I wish to show you but you may let your imagination be free to wander.

Your performance is billed as ‘slow-burn’. How did you come to develop this style of movement?

Slow-burn… funny, first time I’ve heard that! I’m interested in observing how things change. I try to create a space for watching how we are watching. A space for renewing what we think a body is. I like to be surprised by what changes.

I was working within parameters already mentioned, to which I added two other principles; don’t change everything at the same time. That’s to say, keep something of the movement or posture you’ve been working with, whilst changing one of its aspects.This helps you to concentrate on the particular element you’re trying to change, on the process of moving from a present state to what it will become. And don’t ever go back, each move must bring about an irreversible change.

Opening a space where the spectator can receive contents but also where one can observe how he is composing his reading of the body.
I like to produce change with a suttle gesture and extend, or negociate the space between moment A and moment B. Another way to say it the big change is often very near to the actual situation, it is just besides. I like that a gesture has the power to become a latche, that might tranform the situation.

Each form may be a posture, one that evokes a relation to the self and the world, in the same way the art of sculpture does. What is it that orients us as we try to identify whether a body has good or bad posture, strong or weak, lazy or efficient, how gendered…? What happens in the interstices between these extreme postures? I envisage the posture as a reservoir ( or container) and alter it using its own contents.

What does this form of movement offer the audience that they might not find in more traditional dance?

Hmmm…. I don’t know. I was recently in Korea and came across the concept of Jeong-jung-dong’ which means ‘there is movement in the stillness’, a concept very close to my work. The Récital changes it’s own style during the performance, it starts like rather minimal dance and ends with humour and ventriloquy! That might be a bit particular!

You’ll be performing as part of London International Mime Festival what are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

I’m very glad to be performing at London International Mime Festival. I’m personally quite attracted by visual theatre and other works using illusion and human savoir-faire made in extremely simple and poetic ways. I would love to see most of the shows, but it will depend on the time I have available.

Yasmine Hugonnet, Le Récital des Postures
Lilian Baylis Studio
19 & 20 Jan

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