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Merveilles à Montfermeil

A show built on its participants’ identities

The show is based on a film project in collaboration with the residents of Montfermeil – a collective new work based on the transmission of each person’s particular knowledge. Film-maker Jeanne Balibar and choreographer Jérôme Bel steer the work in situ together, with the performers and their own languages.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Merveilles à Montfermeil
© DR

Specially devised in Montfermeil, the show is based on the personalities and careers of local residents involved in the project.  Merveilles à Montfermeil  (‘Marvels in Montfermeil’)  showcases the multiple identities making up the town’s diverse culture. Working with artist Emmanuelle Parrenin, Jeanne Balibar and Jérôme Bel draw on each participant’s distinctive, cultural body language, involving traditional knowledge (songs, dance, poetry) and contemporary influences (TV and cinema).

The show is based on actor Jeanne Balibar’s project to shoot a second full-length film – ‘a musical that dares not speak its name’ – starring the inhabitants of a town in the French department of Seine- Saint-Denis. To prepare the participants for filming, Balibar called on choreographer Jérôme Bel, who has a keen interest in working with non-professionals. This learning experience in situ prompted the idea for a live show, independent of the film, starring some of the amateur actors and dancers.  

Parrenin, Balibar and Bel worked with local groups to organise a choreographic and musical workshop open to a hundred participants. Their respective artistic ‘languages’ were identified and coexist in the piece through teaching and learning: each teaches the other his or her dance, song of poem. The  Fondation d’entreprise Hermès supports this choreographic project, created entirely in Montfermeil, highlighting the importance of shared cultural for collective, universal art.

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