The French-born Cédric Andrieux had a typical career for a dancer, working with multiple choreographers, embodying different styles. That is, until he connected with the notorious Jérôme Bel, whose solo for Andrieux re-presents the dancer’s life, especially his relationships with previous choreographers: basically choreographing choreography.
Now Andrieux has quit his day job with the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon, is touring the world with the piece and planning future projects that reach far beyond the traditional role of a dancer, including directing a documentary. In the meantime, Cédric Andrieux is returning to Berlin after a sold out run in September for an encore performance at HAU1.
What was the process of creating this more intimate and personal work like?
When Jerome asked me if i was interested in working on a piece with him, my first instinct was: ‘oh-my-god-a-solo and it’s going to have my name on it, it’s going to be amazing.’ And then pretty early on he was like, well we’re working on this and if a performance comes out of it then fine, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. As long as I remain interested in what you’re telling me and what’s being exchanged between us, I’m happy to continue but we could very much end up in a dead end.
So if your life wasn’t interesting enough, he wouldn’t make a performance out of it?
At first it was really a bit stressful because I knew what was at stake for me as a dancer. I’ve had an interesting career, but to have a solo with Jérôme Bel was a whole different thing. And then i had to let go of all that because it ended up being very interesting working on the piece, interesting for me as a dancer, but also as a person, just to reflect on my life and think a lot about different things, so it was actually easy to be like: ‘okay, well if something comes out of it, great. If not, this is still good.’
What was it like to work with Bel as a choreographer?
He’s not like a traditional choreographer. He doesn’t even choose people he’s going to do it with really. He certainly didn’t choose me. We just met when we were working on show, and he had always been very influenced by Merce Cunningham, and that’s the person he was really interested in, I just happened to be a dancer who had worked with him. It had nothing to do with him liking me personally or with me as a dancer. It’s an excuse to talk about things that are a lot bigger than you.
What are these larger themes that the piece deals with?
The text is written about my life, but it’s my life related to dance, mostly to the idea of Cunningham and postmodern dance, so it felt more like an excuse to talk about this. But it’s the first time in my career that I’ve also been given so much creative freedom, because I wrote the text, I had to come up with words. I had to come up with the dances that I had done before, so I feel very much involved in the piece.
What was it like to actually perform texts on stage for the first time?
It was weird, the first few times we started rehearsing and I had to say a text out loud it felt very foreign. I felt very intimidated and stupid and silly. For me, a lot of what performing is about is getting over yourself – getting over your own fears or your own inhibitions or your own insecurities or your own ego. And that’s kind of what it was: ‘that’s the point of this piece, get on with it.’
How has the development of postmodern dance works changed how dance is considered in terms of being art versus craft or entertainment?
I think with what happened in the world in the 20th century, art definitely changed a little bit, with Duchamp, it wasn’t about making something beautiful, and it was about thinking and making people think – before it was about representing God or entertaining the king.
There is this factor with being impressed with what you’re seeing on stage, seeing them do something you can’t do and it doesn’t necessarily make you think very much and I think that’s where postmodern work comes into play, because it takes all that away.
Does being a dancer also make you an artist?
I’m a dancer and that means I do dance. It’s an art form, so does that mean that I’m an artist? I don’t really think it does. But with performance art and the fact that dancers are becoming an integral part of the process, it’s shifting in that direction. I do think that being an artist is making choices, having a thought process behind what’s being done.
So what are you planning for future works?
After working with this piece, I’m interested in being more in charge, I like that feeling. I’m not necessarily convinced that my medium of choice is going to be dance. I’m working with a friend of mine on a performance piece and that is rather nerve wracking for me because it’s close to dance. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s because all of my career I’ve been more of a tool.
So even in Cédric Andrieux it was your material, but it was Bel’s direction and vision.
The concept of the dancer telling his life on stage and also his aesthetic, stripping off an extra layer of costume decor, lights, effects, throwing any kind of magic around a performance away, that’s his. That’s his aesthetic, that’s the issue he’s been working on for a long time.
Is it still unusual for a dancer to be used in such a way?
It would be more of a choreographer that would put himself on stage if he wanted to convey so much information. He would use himself as the material.
Do you prefer this?
It’s extremely satisfying. I feel more involved, or present – a bit more singular. You feel like I’m a contributor to something here, it’s not just like the next dancer that he will hire.
So really you’re the only one who could do this piece.
Anyone else could do a piece. This piece, no. This piece is only mine [laughs].
CÉDRIC ANDRIEUX December 2-4, 19:30 | HAU1