Posts By: Demsey Legrand

Daguerrotypes

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Last week, I randomly came across a French movie by Agnes Varda, from 1975. I found some aesthetic and conceptual qualities close to my interests in choreography, which is why I wish to share it on our blog.

Daguerreotypes is a series of intimate portraits of the shopkeepers from the Rue Daguerre in Paris, where Agnes Varda used to live in the 70s. The pun in the title emphasises the unicity and at the same time typicality of each person introduced in the movie.

We first get acquainted with Mrs and Mr “Chardon Bleu”, so called after the name of their haberdashery and perfume shop, open since 1933. The contemplative attitude of Mrs Chardon Bleu conjugates with the quietness of the place, lost in repeated and desperately resembling days. We then meet the hairdressers, the butcher and his wife and daughter, the grocer and his son, the plumber, the baker, the concierge,…

 

 

Rue Daguerre. Paris

 

 

The daguerreotype process was invented in France and was the first practicable method of obtaining permanent images. Using a silver-plated copper sheet primarily polished and fumed to make it light sensitive, the surface would be exposed in a camera and chemically treated, rinsed and dried. The resulting image would be sealed behind glass in a protective enclosure, appearing either positive or negative, depending on the viewing angle and on the light. Daguerreotypes were very delicate and fragile objects, but also unique, due to their irreproducibility.

 

Ms Chardon Bleu

 

 

Likewise, each portrait in Varda’s movie is intrinsically individualised. The composure and focus of each craft as well as the consideration of the light and the decisive camera angles mirror the daguerreotypes’ characteristics.

In the first phrase, the artisans are filmed during the opening and closing of their shops, choreographed by their duties, in their casual conversations and regular activities. Soon the movie offers a repertoire of gestures. These appear as if natural and inherent to the bodies, through reiteration and practice. Each person then speaks facing camera about where they come from and when they arrived in Paris, their voices and accents adding another nuance and depth to the portraits.

In the second phrase, we are introduced to the prestidigitator Mystag, having a show in the café down the street. Each trick visually coincides with the recorded motions of the hands and tools of the shopkeepers. In an allegorical way, the dramatic tone of the magician narrating these movements lead to the glorification and highlighting of their expertise and their value for the neighbourhood.

By the end of the movie, Varda slowly unfolds a sequence of fixed traditional portraits, overtly absorbing the quality of daguerreotypes and merging all the layers which repeated actions can bring to expressions, bodies and faces.

Ultimately, this movie felt like a popular tale, based on a resolute attention to simple daily gestures and a musing pace, which triggered my interest the most.

I would be keen to probe these aspects, in the same way as Varda, calling herself a daguerreotypesse

 

 

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I will get rid of the ivy myself

To gather people with the same passion, with different roots, like the leaves on the same tree. Not the ivy, but a tree planted by Karla Shacklock in Bristol on November 2.

Karla Shacklock has been touring the UK this autumn with her project Getting out of the box, an open-minded form of shared counseling on what it takes to be a dancer nowadays. The event took place at the Trinity Arts Centre, where, in a giant circle, we engaged the conversation. Some renowned dancers were invited and offered their perspectives. Straight away, Laïla Diallo (former dancer with Wayne McGregor’s dance company, independent choreographer) invigorated the “out of the box” thinking by saying that she would always fill her pockets with possibilities, ask herself “what if I tried this or that?” constantly, and look up from the microcosm of her practice. Adesola Akinleye (founder of DancingStrong) mentioned that she once moved into a house where the garden was invaded with ivy. She contacted gardeners to get rid of it, but it was too expensive. In the end, she decided to get rid of the ivy herself. This decision gave her a sense of empowerment and an occasion to create a personal space. The same sense happening through choreography. A way to change and appropriate her environment, create an energy leading somewhere. She also pointed out that, as artists, we have the privilege of reflection and ought to become friend with the reflecting process.
Equally, Lois Taylor (founder of Attik Dance, former Dance lecturer at Falmouth University and now freelance dancer), defined thriving as being one with her body, her body dancing with other dancing bodies. The relationship to the body has to be the priority. There is no distinction between doing and being the dance. There is no aim to go anywhere, nor anything to chase or compare; it is all already within.
Vicki Amedume (founder of Upswing), Jo Fong (former performer with DV8 Physical Theatre, Rosas and Rambert Dance, independent choreographer), and Helen Wilson (founder of Rise Youth Dance company), were also present; whilst Lucy Suggate had written a survival letter for Karla Shacklock to share, an invitation to “insane curiosity”, grit and determination.
We took part in a general conversation, a blessing, inspiring and revitalizing. A spring of trust surged. We made our days through building up our own little manifestos, mixing up each other’s tips, doubts, honesty, wonder, wisdom, excitements, ambitions, mistakes and commitment.

And I left thinking: there is everything to learn and everything to question, it starts with trust within and amongst each other, and finally, I’d be most interested in what a manifesto from the Next Choreographers would look like. Something to merge between our weekly book of words and our intention to challenge potentiality. Hence why I wanted to share this event.
Likewise, the first month of Next Choreography has already proved to be our place to think out of the box, through the questioning and reflecting, the genuineness of our being there and the variety of performances and people to meet.
Just a month.

 

 

 

 

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