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A moving portrait by Francois Quillacq & Axell Katomba
Celebrating the exponential rise of the National Ballet of Marseille’s directorial collective (La)Horde, a trio formed by Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer and Arthur Harel, this exclusive visual portfolio by Francois Quillacq and Axell Katomba paints a moving portrait of one of today’s most exciting dance troupes in the contemporary/classical hybrid space.
Commissioned by creative director Alice Gavin, associate artist at the BNM, this long-term artistic study of the ballet’s quotidian practice from September to December 2020 has culminated in a series of still and video works that capture the vibrant energy of this dynamic collective — one intent on changing perceptions of contemporary dance and the relationship between youth culture and the performing arts. Brimming with vitriolic urgency, (La)Horde’s ‘post-internet dance’ performances are emotive windows into a multitude of scenarios that are as violent as they are romantic, and as sensual as they are a stage for struggle.
“I regularly invite authors and artists to document the group of dancers as we are highly interested by their various gazes on this very specific group of people,” said Gavin, who will hold a 3-year residency at the BNM from 2020-2022. “François’ relationship to images and the way he activates his subjects seemed very appropriate to celebrate the 1st year of the Ballet’s new direction under (La)Horde, as he generates such anachronistic, textured scenarios.”
Echoing (La)Horde’s commitment to exploring contemporary issues in classical contexts, Quillacq and Katomba have called upon a multitude of stylistic references when documenting the dancers at work. First and foremost, by incorporating runway silhouettes from Paris-based label Y/Project designed by Antwerp graduate Glenn Martens, Quillacq, Katomba and Gavin draw a unique parallel of deconstruction between the garments and the bodies within them, aligning the symbiotic modus operandi of Y/Project and (La)Horde to dismantle archetypes in fashion and dance respectively. “Martens’ designs influenced by architecture really served our concept, just as the deconstruction and reconstruction of the garments speaks volumes of the times we are living in,” said Quillacq. Calling upon Katomba’s deep experimentation with analogue video methods — here, the directors employed Super 16mm film — the project’s aesthetic leans historical, with welcome light ‘accidents’ and an apocalyptic backdrop designed to glow like a Marseille sunset. “The idea was to call upon the poetic nature of analogue film to create an idea of suspended time,” he reflected.
The primary video entitled ‘Fresque’ (top) hits somewhere between a Pompeiian fresco and the ‘mannequin challenge’, the 2016 viral sensation where a single moving protagonist interacts with a frozen static environment. Further video tableaus focus upon individual dancers, duos and trios. “The idea here was to represent the dancers as personalities that create a group, rather than the pure collectivity of the troupe. Each of them are individuals that together form a whole,” said Gavin. Another clip and still images are drawn from an excerpt of (La)Horde’s ‘Room With A View’ — a vital piece that features in a music video of the same name for the French electronic artist Rone — further contextualising the performers in an abstraction of their onstage roles. The final ‘Class Portrait’ (below) comes full circle, as a candid glimpse into the dancers’ unscripted, unrehearsed humanity, where vibrant personalities reign and the catharsis of their craft is a joy to behold.
Words by Dan Thawley
Video directed by François Quillacq & Axel Katomba
Creative direction by Alice Gavin, artist associate at the CCN Ballet National de Marseille
Movement direction by (LA)HORDE:
Marine Brutti, Arthur Harel, Jonathan Debrouwer
Styling by Andrej Skok @ The Art Board
Styling assistance by Anne Cécile Lemée
Set design by Caroline Curdy
Set design assistance by Moa Marklund
Lighting by Jason Fenestre
Sound design by François Quillacq
All clothes by Y/Project and the archives of the Ballet National de Marseille
Featuring Ballet National de Marseille dancers:
Angel Martinez Hernandez
Malgorzata Coello Cz
With thanks to Nicole Murru, Julia Bureau, Antoine Allain, Rémi D’Apolito, Julien Ticot and Clémence Sormani.
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