To make a singing garden

The french choreographer François Chaignaud is one a million, both as a person an artist. This weekend his piece Soufflette with Carte Blanche takes over Oslo.

Ace Francois Chaignaud Solitude 24 Frames Carriageworks 2015 2

1. How long has it been since you started working on Soufflette? What were your first thought towards it?
This is a step throughout an ongoing dream and research to combine dancing and singing... It’s the first time I’ve been commissioned a piece as an individual artist and not in a collaboration. This changed a lot my mindset. The first image I had was to create live singing ikebana. (Ikebana (生け花, "living flowers") is the Japanese art of flower arrangement.) We’re not that far from this first image...

2. When did you invite Romain Brau into the project? How did you work together? What was the result?
We have been collaborating together since 2012; so as soon as I had moved forward enough with the project, I invited Romain, knowing his skills would fit perfectly the dream, and hoping he would be available. The result is unique and is also an incredibly collective work. So many people worked on those costumes, the knitting in Norway, the embroideries in India, the iron elements in Paris, the flowers in Denmark, the wooden boxes in Portugal... it was quite heavy on the Carte Blanche costume department, but we are all so delighted by the result, unique in the contemporary dance field.

I had quite precise requests, for instance the invisible “tacones” (the tap shoes of the second part) or the high heels of the last part, or the medieval floral ornaments that we took from certain manuscripts related to the musical research...

Credito Louise Desnos Francois Chaignaud Copy

3. Tell us about the music! Who made it? Do you like it?
Most of the music has been composed and or arranged by Jostein Gundersen and I love his scores! But the composition has been a process that we initiated together a lot ahead in advance before we actually start the rehearsals. I wanted to connect compositional principles from the first polyphonies written in the western world (in 12th, 13th century) to contemporary anthems (such as tracks from Bob Marley or the Fugees). So we both identified the compositional tools we wanted to imitate and the contemporary materials that would have the most adequate and relevant content and aura. Jostein’s composition are incredibly refined and convey very powerfully this historical “crash”.

There is also a svanetian polyphony that the dancers perform in headstand. Finally I also partly composed a piece, starting from its polyrhythm, and adding a melodic line that Jostein harmonized. The rythm and percussive work has also been very important in the process.

What if a medieval breath blew through our lips?

Paris-based choreographer François Chaignaud

4. What qualities do you appreciate in the Carte Blanche team? How did you influence each other?
What struck me the most has been the work structure that combined extremely short working days (compared to what I’m used) and a long process (almost 3 months). This duration gave the ability to really develop new skills (singing, perform specific rythms...) and imaginaries while the very short days allow me (and us ?) to work very concretely and not let the doubts take over.

This show is extremely challenging on the dancers. Everything relies on them, the sound, the image and the movements. I’m very thankful that the company is serving all this with so much involvement and sensitivity.

And of course I appreciate the portrait of this company, rather singular among comparable international repertoire company. A very specific beauty is owned by this company and I’m proud and thankful to be associated to it. I just wish the company could travel more easily to show the work in many places and country !

Foto Tale Hendnes 2 25
Fra prøvene til Soufflette av Carte Blanche

5. What are the highlights of your life? Your career?
At least every show has to be a highlight, if not every second of the life.

6. What is next? What inspires you?
I’m now in Tokyo. I’m touring several shows all over. I’m also preparing a few projects as a performer where I keep exploring intensity of historical ghosts - from 12th century, to early 20th century European avant garde, to Japanese cabaret...

The experience with Carte Blanche also gave me the strong desire to pursue this work for my own company, with a group of singers dancers performers that I would gather. Last but not least, I’ve enjoyed A LOT spending time in Bergen, and would love to be back. I will perform there next season, and I’d love to engage more collaborations there. The climate, the size, the institutions and the talents there are just a perfect place to make art