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About Ordinary Witnesses:
Creation in Bonlieu - Scène Nationale d'Annecy on May 27th 2009
Rachid Ouramdane, by Rosita Boisseau
« The choreographer Rachid Ouramdane likes to hide his face behind his masks. Whether under a clown’s make-up, behind a metallic sculpture or inside a motorbike crash helmet, the face, the mystery of the person, is concealed to focus the gaze elsewhere. According to the choreographer, though the mask is a way to display the myriad facets of his fragmented personality, he also maintains that one’s identity is a bottomless pit, an illusion to which the face gives a single interpretation. By altering the appearance, the mask enables the body to develop new strategies to exist in other ways and erases the contours that are too easy to read. Since the creation of the company ‘Association Fin Novembre’, cofounded with Julie Nioche, Rachid Ouramdane, who for many years interpreted the works of choreographers Odile Duboc, Hervé Robbe , Meg Stuart and Emmanelle Huynh, has tried to lift the veil of obviousness that covers everything. For this discreet man, the son of Algerians who sought refuge in silence, the words denied to his parents’ generation on the Algerian war of independence in an open wound that the stage allows him to soothe. In ‘Au bord des métaphores’ (2000), video was used to pulverize identities with the risk of becoming lost in surface effects. For ‘+ ou – là’ (2002), inspiration came from television and its icons, from the narcissism of the new media. Directly connected on the internet, in Les Morts pudiques (2004), a solo self-portrait fuelled by research on youth and death, life blood flowed through plastic tubes of pure medical beauty. The play on images, on signs, and on their ambivalence electrifies Rachid Ouramdane’s performances, often comparable to secret ceremonies for mutants who’ve broken free. For example, in Cover (2005), a precious monochrome created after a series of visits to Brazil, men painted from head to toe in gold paint circle the stage, contemporary idols sucked into the twilight with no return. »
Panorama de la danse contemporaine, Editions Textuel, 2006
Prior to founding the L’A. association in 2007 – a site for artistic exploration of contemporary identity – choreographer Rachid Ouramdane had collaborated with artists such as Emmanuelle Huynh, Odile Duboc, Hervé Robbe, Meg Stuart, Catherine Contour, Christian Rizzo, Jeremy Nelson, Alain Buffard, and choreographer Julie Nioche, with whom he co-founded the Fin Novembre association in 1996. From the start, Rachid Ouramdane’s projects have exemplified the conceptual upheaval taking place in the realm of dance since the mid-90s. Following in Ouramdane’s footsteps, artists have been reassessing the definitions of “performer” and “choreographer”, and questioning modes of producing and circulating artwork. The nature of his work has led to collaboration with institutions that traditionally focus on the visual arts (the FRAC Champagne/Ardennes in 2001 within the framework of his residency at the Manège de Reims from 2000 to 2004), and to a residency from 2005 to 2007 at the Ménagerie de Verre in Paris, a multidisciplinary space dedicated to contemporary artistic output. Very quickly, Rachid Ouramdane’s shows integrated video as a springboard for thinking about body-memory. The key element of each show is a unique encounter, resulting in an original artistic approach. Founding L’A in 2007 was a turning point for his work, which now aims to blur the boundaries between dance and documentary. It was in this period that he began his residency at the Théâtre de Gennevilliers, in parallel to his ongoing association with the Bonlieu-Scène Nationale d’Annecy as of 2005 and become associated to Théâtre de la Ville de Paris in 2010.
What can dance do that history books can’t?
"History books may supply documents and facts, but this has nothing to do with our experience." Rachid Ouramdane hears this statement time and again when pursuing the traces of military violence. What is the nature of the gap between personal experience and official history? What can dance do that history books can’t?
These questions are pivotal for someone bent on conveying the collective by way of the individual. They are questions that have been kindling Rachid Ouramdane’s choreography over the past 13 years and spanning 15 shows. The same questions propelled the association Fin Novembre, co-founded with Julie Nioche in 1996, and are now being developed through the company L’A., founded in 2007. Whether dealing with recent geographic upheaval, population movements or changes triggered by new technologies, the focal point of Ouramdane’s work is contemporary identity. He creates onstage transformation of live testimonials, for the most part gathered beyond the confines of dance studios: such as in the 2001 show De Arbitre à Zébra with the community of wrestlers and boxers from the city of Reims, or in the 2007 show Surface de réparation with 12 young athletes from the city of Gennevilliers. Ouramdane concocts series of “choreographic portraits” that delve into the undercurrents between individuals and their practices. The aim is not to beautify the practice at hand, but rather to “dancify” it by offering a new “montage”.
The term “montage” aptly describes an approach to dance that encompasses sound-space, lighting design and video tools. The show Au bord des métaphores (1999) launched this onstage friction between bodies and their video-captures. Next came + ou – Là (2002), which questioned “TV grammar”, followed by Les morts pudiques (2004), which explored youth and death based on history fragments culled from the Net. All of his shows share similar underpinnings: depiction of a body pierced by other people’s history, bodies that bear the imprint of history’s spasms and the living memory of adjacent tremors. Each of these bodies grapples with space by way of video screens, much like windows onto the outer world, bodily extensions or glimmers of absence. Rachid Ouramdane probes the polyphony of body-archives, where bodies are often faceless – via helmets, hoods, clown makeup and other sorts of identity-blurring masks. The recurrence of the identity issue - whether social, geographical or cultural - echoes the second-generation immigrant experience. Ouramdane’s Algerian born parents immigrated to France, and this “third identity” imbues his work and has yielded the 2008 semi-autobiographical solo Loin...
In his recent projects, Rachid Ouramdane has been joining forces with documentary-makers, and radicalizing his examination of the boundaries between dance and documentary.
L’A. / Rachid Ouramdane receives the support of Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication / DRAC Île-de-France, of Conseil Régional d’Île-de-France and of ’Institut français for its international projects
The main theaters in which we perform...
Théâtre de la Ville - Paris, Bonlieu-Scène Nationale - Annecy, Festival d’Avignon, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Théâtre de Gennevilliers, Festival d’Athènes, Biennale de la danse de Lyon, Festival Montpellier Danse, Tanz im August - Berlin, Kaaitheater - Bruxelles, Halles de Schaerbeeck - Bruxelles, Festival Panorama - Rio de Janeiro, Centre National de la Danse, MC2 Grenoble, Southbank Center Londres, Centre Georges Pompidou, Festival de Liège, Opéra de Lyon, Festival Latitudes Contemporaines, Pôle Sud - Strasbourg, Théâtre Forum - Meyrin, Teatro Central - Séville, Festival Crossing the Line - New York, DTW - New York, TBA - Portland, Springdance Festival - Utrecht, Tanzquartier - Vienne, Theater der Welt, Dublin Dance Festival, TU Nantes, Sadler’s Well - Londres, Wexner Center for The Arts - Colombus, Le Quai - Angers
Association and residency
Association with Théâtre de la Ville de Paris since September 2010 (first choreographer associated to Théâtre de la Ville since 1991).
Ménagerie de Verre à Paris from 2005 to 2007.
Residency in Théâtre de Gennevilliers from 2007 to 2010 (first choreographer in residency in a "Centre dramatique national").
Association with Bonlieu, Scène nationale d’Annecy since 2005.
Residency in Scène nationale - Le Manège de Reims from 2000 to 2004.
Participation in the frame of Intradance, Europe-Russie collaboration programm : creation in situ in Kirov (Russia).
Participation in the frame of «Colaboratorio» international residency in Rio de Janeiro - Brazil.
Regular participation in internationals events of french dance (FranceDanse Nouvelle Zélande, FranceDanse Europe, FranceDanse Asie 2007, Focus Danse 2008, French Move 2005, La Francia si muovo 2004...).
Artist associated to Festival Klapstuk in Belgium in 2005.
Thanks to Rachid Ouramdane for his willingness to participate in this project and continue researching contemporary identities with dance
This piece is presented by courtesy of Rachid Ouramdane and partially supported by dance-tech.net 2011 partners:
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