Emma and Tori’s Dance Voyage to Lyon to see What The Body Does Not Remember
You know you’re in for a jam-packed day with a 4am wake up call, a 6am train to Stafford including 2 changes and finally with passports in hand a flight from Birmingham to France! With the excitement kicking in and a coffee in hand, there was no time to be tired. Myself
and Tori Moore (Digital Executive at The Lowry) managed to meet up with 2 other people also on the trip from other leading organisations and dance hubs. We met Oliver Eastwood from Cast and Paul Russ from Dance 4. Having never met them before, they texted us various messages explaining what they looked like so that we could find them in the busy bustling airport, and so, without wanting to stare at people and to avoid looking totally aberrant, myself and Tori swiftly glanced over at the crowd trying to match people up. The text descriptions read: ‘carrying grey rucksack’, ‘brown glasses’ and ‘blue jumper!’
Finally, having located everyone we arrived in Lyon (France’s third largest city!) and our next objective was to get to the hotel. We managed to get a taxi super quick and in trying to recall as much disjointed “Anglais-Français” as possible, we attempted to tell the driver our hotel address. Luckily he seemed to get the general idea and we set off towards the heart of Lyon. During our journey we began discussing our backgrounds, upcoming dance events, knowledge on Dance Touring Partnership* and Ultima Vez and what we hoped to gain from the trip. I still couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be sitting in a taxi about to spend the day in Lyon with dance professionals from across the UK!
After dropping our bags off at the hotel, within 10 minutes, we began looking for Maison De La Danse Theatre and spontaneously took the handy ‘Funicular’ – (French word for ‘tram’) in search of a bite to eat and to explore the centre of Lyon before the rest of the party was due to arrive later that afternoon.
Instantly you could feel the city had a relaxed vibe in what felt like a calmer version of Paris, but just as equally as beautiful, with its old stoned bridges, cobbled streets and monumental fountains. There was no doubt Lyon was full of effortless character and Roman Renaissance charm. What was most impressive about Lyon was the unforgettable views of the Notre-Dame Basilica Cathedral overlooking the city. It was so striking and absolutely magnifique with its sandy stoned high reaching towers and slender fragile columns.
It wasn’t long until we stumbled upon the delightful ‘Only Lyon’ letter sculpture and I was soon snapping away on my camera. I later found out that every three months, the ‘Only Lyon’ sculpture actually moves to a brand new location around the city – pretty awesome!
After an adventurous day exploring Lyon, it was time to take the ‘funicular’ (it has the word fun in it but the ride certainly wasn’t fun during rush hour!) back to our hotel to freshen up, shower and change, ready to meet up for the pre-show dinner. We met the rest of the dance professionals (all 10 of us) at a lovely restaurant which once inside, we began talking non-stop. Conversation (and wine) flowed, campaigns discussed, stories swapped and ideas shared. Before we knew it, one of us suddenly noticed how late into the evening it was, actually bringing the dinner to an abrupt end as we frantically made our way to the theatre for the start of the show.
An excitable vibe was felt throughout the theatre as the impressive opening scene started.
There was a focus on ‘hands’ controlling two dancers throwing themselves across the floor in a detached stop-and-start quality. The dancers’ movement relied on the vigorous scratching and scraping sound of the hands against the surface of the wood table. There seemed to be a theme of connection, between sound and how it generates movement. How the focus on the body can be just a part – the hand – and how a small thing can be powerful. ‘I command, they do’ (quoted by Wim Vandekeybus).
The performance was spilt into six sections but the scene that really stood out for me and will forever be ingrained into my memory was ‘stones’ that looked into the connections between risk, instinct, responses and action timing. Dancers threw large bricks across the stage, flinging them like they were weightless. Other dancers dashed in-between running in curved pathways, piling the bricks on top of each other. At one point the bricks could have easily been balanced to a height of around 2 metres and the dancers managed to balance at the top of the pile. It was unmitigated mania and absolute brilliance at the same time.
The music throughout the show, composed by Peter Vermeersch, fitted perfectly within each scene with sounds of strings, piano, clarinets and bass instruments. The rhythm increased and built up to a climax generating movement that pushed the risk and physical boundaries of the dancers to a limit you thought was not at all possible.
The whole performance was remarkable and physically ruthless with a slight dollop of humour thrown in.
It doesn’t surprise me that the original piece of What the Body Does Not Remember astonished the dance world back in 1987 on its debut. Still, today throughout the 6 scenes we were put through our paces in what is an extraordinarily powerful piece. Clearly my fellow spectators agreed as the audience erupted in a standing ovation and shouts of ‘bravo’ filled the auditorium. As the dancers took their bow, the sound of applause ingeniously turned into a little rhythm of its own as people starting clapping to a constant and regular beat! (I wonder if this is a common thing in France amongst theatre goers?).
During the after-show gathering, I grabbed the opportunity to ask Ultima Vez’s company manager some questions and told him of my blog. I asked about the show’s background, his role in the company, the audition process and what Wim Vandekeybus looked for in his dancers:
“Personality and character plays a major role in the selection process” he advised. “Wim carries out intense auditions throughout a week-long period and from that only 2 dancers might be chosen in the end. It is important to him that each dancer cannot be irreplaceable. That they individuality bring something exciting to the stage”.
I couldn’t agree more, instead of striving for technical polished unison moments, the piece played on the dramatic qualities embodied in the dancers.
Leaving Maison De Le Dance Theatre our group was still on a high about the evening performance as we left feeling energised and hungry for more.
What the Body Does Not Remember? My mind certainly will not forget, after watching this memorable and breathtaking performance.
Thank you LOVEABLE LYON for having us! Le voyage destination Lyon accomplished.