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INTERVIEW The Blanket Dance

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Jefta: What is The Blanket Dance about?

DD: The Blanket Dance is about the dynamic interdependence of touch, relationship, and movement. The Blanket Dance is about practicing live.

Frédéric: What is dance in The Blanket Dance? How would you define it? How does it appear?

DD: Dance appears when a syncopated or flowing connectivity between action, reaction, thought and sensation is put into motion amongst us. This dance ebbs and flows across the field of the entire performance. Visually for the spectator it may not always be obvious, yet the movement of sensemaking, cognition, pleasure, etc produce what I would call an internal dance in the viewer. In practice for me, there is always a negotiation of space through time, which I use as the frame for my work as a performer. I would call this frame dance, and a dance.

Frédéric: What is the place, or the status, of narration in The Blanket Dance?

Jefta: Realizing and acknowledging – in real time – what happens through what we do, creates a kind of narration for me. It implies a zooming out of the activity I am busying myself with and a zooming in to an understanding of the situation I find myself in. In fact, I think the audience does the same: looking at what we do turning into looking at what it creates. This turning point can mark the shift into narration (as well as other things), one starts to see things. In The Blanket Dance this shift is sometimes sharp and sometimes fuzzy, sometimes complete and sometimes partial. That is one type of narration we work with. The second type is a more classical one, through giving a sense of meaning by transitioning from one specific material to another one, or by referring to or connecting events and/or objects. In the performance, we use this narration as glue, as a compositional and communicative tool that makes links, creates associations, poses questions, gives dramaturgy, makes occurrences meaningful etc. We have used it as an inspiration of how to think and perform the piece, using as-ifs as a motivation to construct the development of the performance. The objects, for instance, are all linked by ‘being or representing nature’. That means nothing in itself, but can plant many seeds of thoughts or questions, or even confusions, as to what can become meaningful. There are also other narrative links that direct the performance. Like the rolled up posters that make us find the tiger blanket which demands attention and touch in order to create a sound (that reminds me of a roar). Or like when we together pat objects and face the same direction in order to project a positive intention into a corner of the space to cheer it up. These are some of the as-ifs that hint on narration, almost like in a theatre piece for children. But by layering them and not following through with the consequence of those narrations we rather cultivate possible connections than a libretto. The idea is to support a kind of sensemaking that can be both abstract and concrete, both story-like and musical, both psychedelic and hyper-real.

DD: What is the relationship of sound and touch in The Blanket Dance?

Frédéric: I would say that there are several relationships between sound and touch in the piece. A first one is that sound can appear to be the proof of touch, e.g. when I am touching this zebra pattern plastic bag it makes a kind of crispy sound. The sound is the proof that a touch happens. The sound of a touch also informs on the specific quality of this particular touch. The sound of a caress will not be the same as the one of little slap. In a way, the sound can translate how a touch feels like. I hear the sound of the slap, and I can imagine how it feels like. This aspect concerns the touches that the audience can actually see, the sound of the touches that we make live.

Still linked to this notion of proof of touch, it is also possible to hear the sound of touches that are not physically happening right now for real. The sound score is made of sounds that imply touch, so these sounds are the proofs of touch that the audience doesn’t see. The same as in the previous example I gave, these sounds can also inform on the quality of these touches. By hearing the sound of a touch I can imagine its intensity, its movement, the feeling of it. I can even imagine the nature of what is touched. Is it a soft or a hard object? Is its surface smooth or rough? Is it hairy, plastic or metallic? Is it organic or inorganic? In that sense, sound triggers imagination. In a way, sound can make us see touch. If sound can make us see touch, to see touch over and over during the piece can also make us experience sound as touch. For example, when we are around the tiger blanket, and there is all of a sudden this big noise coming out from the speakers, we can really feel the vibrations of this sound in our bodies. Somehow, we are physically touched by these vibrations. Because we focus so much on touch, we are invited to experience this kind of sound as touch.

In The Blanket Dance, the relationship between sound and touch also sometimes lies in the fact that the succession of touches produces music. Music becomes a side effect of touch. This is true when we are patting all these objects, but we could extend it to the moment when we hear the sound of a piano in the sound score: the piano melody is the side effect of the touches of fingers on the keys of the piano.

Jefta: How is touch manifested in your life related to touch manifested on stage (in The Blanket Dance), and how do the two interact, affect each other?

Frédéric: In my life, fortunately, a big part of my touches remain unconscious. In The Blanket Dance, we try to focus on all the touches that happen, to be aware of what touches what at each moment, of which information are communicated through these touches, and of how they feel. To have such an acute awareness of the manifestation of touch while rehearsing or performing the piece doesn’t stop immediately after I leave the studio or the stage. It often takes me a couple of hours to let all the touches come back to the unconscious. This is sometimes really driving me nuts, it is simply too many information. In those moments, my skin feels like electric. It feels like I cannot take more touch. It is like a touch overdose.

In general, in my life, I am really addicted to touch. Touching and being touched is so nourishing. The relation between touch and healing processes is also something very present for me. Because of my work as a dancer, therapies that involve touch are part of my life. I also have this project of starting an education to become one of those therapists. So I would say that in my life, touch is very linked to love and to healing. It profoundly affects the way I approach touch in the performance. I cannot (and don’t especially want to) ignore these two aspects in the way I am touching in the piece.

DD: What is your favorite part of The Blanket Dance?

Jefta: The part I am the most attached to is the part we call bubba-klubba, in which we hold a rolled up paper poster in one hand, as a prosthetic extension of our arm, navigating our way through the space. For me, this section is important because it ruptures the modus operandi in the performance. Until then, surfaces have been used as the means through which movement and relation is generated – our skin and our thoughts in combination with our activities making up a process, the physical dramaturgy of the piece. At this point our direct and sensorial relation to our surrounding is intersected with something else, with a lo-fi device that enables another kind of touching. This section is curious to me because it speaks of another dimension and makes visible a touch that we do not usually see. This extensional device – the bubba-klubba – opens up to imagination, but only inasmuch as we as performers open up to it. It is not about pretending: the devise “works” by feeling the imagined, or even by just attempting to truly feel with it. This scene brings up new relations through its extension, the relation to things too far away to be touched by hands, the relation to things beyond this space, the relation to the subjective, the invisible and the vibratory.