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Hervé Robbe — a choreographer with the eye (and past career) of an architect —conceives dance as the emanation of a space, a location, a building. And why not a hermit’s hut? For his latest project, Robbe works with Benjamin Graindorge, a young designer new to the theatre, characterised by his powerful, inspired blend of symbolism and function.
Inevitably, Hervé Robbe’s project to create a ‘choreographic, visual and musical piece’ centred on the concept of a cabin or hermit’s hut, led him to the 19th-century American philosopher and (slightly specious) hermit Henry David Thoreau, high priest and bard of life in the woods, far from the madding crowd. But lost in the wilderness, up among the trees, the cabin can quickly become a symbol of confinement, too. A trap. A place of fever…
La Tentation d’un ermitage (‘The temptations of hermitage’) is an enchanting, lyrical work, and an absorbing meditation on isolation and our relationship to the rest of the world. Three dancers and three singers embody a tribal community, torn between archaic gestures and futuristic rites, enmeshed in the richly allusive fabric of Romain Kronenberg’s vocal score, a mix of litany, traditional or sacred chants and contemporary material.
Firmly established over three decades as a leading figure in contemporary dance at the crossroads of the arts, Hervé Robbe shares his disquieting hermitage with young designer Benjamin Graindorge, a ‘revealer’ and creator of objects, making his stage début for the piece. Choosing materials as fragile and fleeting as the audience’s certainties, Graindorge makes the astonishing discovery that while an installation is ‘finite’, the performance it shapes is endlessly evolving. No matter! Choreographer and designer inhabit the same ‘cabins’ — spaces where the creative gestures of art build shared lives.
What, then, of the temptations of hermitude? ‘Shutting myself away to observe the world would be pointless,’ laughs one half of the duo. ‘Perhaps in a cabin lined with windows!’ ‘I’ve been trying to break out from my inner hermitage for years,’ smiles the other.
New Settings festival at Théâtre de la Cité Internationale
17 bd Jourdan, 75014 Paris
Conception and choregraphy: Hervé Robbe
Sets and costumes: Benjamin Graindorge
Costumes made by: Catherine Garnier
Original music: Romain Kronenberg
Lighting: François Maillot
Dramaturg: Ninon Prouteau-Steinhausser
Dancers: Alexia Bigot, Olivier Bioret, Yann Cardin
Singers: Blandine Bouvier, Charlotte Plasse, David Colosio
Production: Travelling&Co, with the support of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès New Settings program
Coproduction: Fondation Royaumont
Residency at Théâtre 71, Scène nationale de Malakoff, Centre national de danse contemporaine - Angers with the support of La Ménagerie de Verre as part of Studiolab, and L'Atelier de Paris Carolyn Carlson