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Organic Resonances. On Ginette Laurin

[…] Vous êtes une manière, vous êtes une manière d’être. Ça veut dire, vous êtes un ensemble de rapports de vitesse et de lenteur entre molécules pensantes, vous êtes un ensemble de rapports de vitesse et de lenteur entre molécules étendues. Et tout ça c’est l’inconnu du corps et c’est l’inconscient de la pensée.[Gilles Deleuze, cours sur Spinoza, Vincennes, 02.12.1980]

As one of the most relevant figures in the international scene, choreographer Ginette Laurin – founder of Canadian group O Vertigo, based in Montreal – is committed since the eighties to a radical research on movement, which she combines with an investigation on the stage mechanism both sound and chromatically-wise. Influenced by an extensive research on physicality, Laurin created a very specific language for ‘writing’ movement, which tends to deconstruct its features by working on dynamics of slowness and speed in the spacial organization of the scene.

Amongst her compositions – displayed worldwide in Festivals and theaters – we cite pieces as La chamber blanche, 1992, re-presented in 2008 in a new version, En dedans (1997), Luna (2001), Passare (2004), ANGELs (2006) and Études #3 pour corde et pouliers (2007). Along with the production of performance pieces, Ginette Laurin and O Vertigo back a formative activity through the Centre de création O Vertigo, the activity of which pivots on a multiform and flexible structure committed to creation, research and formation thank to a number of dedicated choreographers’ and performers’ residences opened to representatives of the international community.

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The human body seen as a formidable machine and supply of potential gesture configurations, always had a fascination on the Canadian choreographer. In her latest composition, Onde de choc, Ginette Laurin strums the most deep and intimate chords of this process of analysis on human anatomy.

Eight dancers couple on the stage, separating suddenly to then again flow together in trajectories, creating a sort of breathing cycle marked by an oscillating, fluctuating progression. They gently touch each other’s skin as to stir up the blood flowing underneath, the blow that makes the organism’s inner matter-movement pulsate. In this intimate exploration the core is indeed the body, here not considered as a whole unit, but rather as a combination of states through which body explicates and expose itself on the stage. This works is therefore about exploring skin as the boundary through which an otherwise undetectable body-state is showed. In this perspective, skin is the membrane allowing the vibration of feeling to become visible, to be felt.

Onde de choc therefore appears a s an unveiling process which allows the inner forces moving the body, to be perceived: organic seismography of its pulsations. Anatomy explodes, becoming clinical fascination for hidden physicality -for its infinite inside- which flows outside in form of musical poetry of gesture.

This work establishes a direct continuity with Passare, from 2004; the link consisting in the exploration of sound and lighting technologies, and leading to define a process of composition in which the scene’s acoustic elements stream out of the hidden dimension of moving bodies: performers’ heartbeat on which the light architecture of the scene builds itself.

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I. On the skin bounds: the dizziness of movement

Linguistically, researching on the hidden dimensions of physicality led Ginette Laurin to swerve again from her choreographic mark, to the point of developing a vocabulary of movement, arisen from the cardiac imaginary.

In fact, the performance title derives from the name with which, in medical dictionaries, the pulsation generated by cardiac contraction and propagated by the aorta is defined, that being actually onde de choc. The entire structure of the work hence comes – both sound and choreographically-wise – from this reference to a movement which propagates through and merges with body’s internal resonances.

Following that rule, the perception of dancers’ heartbeats on stage is obtained through stethoscopes with integrated wireless microphones applied on their bodies. It is thus possible to process –electronically- impulses sent from each dancer’s organism, weaving them together in an autonomous audio-texture directly connected with the work’s choreographic score.

Such movement’s pulsation-based conception of human anatomy, pushed Ginette Laurin to radicalize her own choreographic language, basing it on Vertigineaz, a concept widely explored in her multifaceted production, through choreographic pieces as through installations made for museums and art galleries.

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Onde de choc deepens the theme of vertigo in two main directions: on one side there is a tendency in accelerating the gesture, focusing on the speed at which movements are performed; on the other we can remark the attention given to suspension and slowness.

Within the speed of movement, the dizziness seems to arise from overlapping details of the body, which seems to be breaking down similarly to a prism: the process leads to a sort of exhaustion of dancers’ energies, therefore causing an arrhythmic and dissonant pulsation made of spasms directly captured from performers’ physiological state.

The sensation of dizziness is vice versa arisen by the exasperation gestures’ slowness imposed in the cases where the choreography is organized by the rules of slowness itself, and body details are outlined almost by subtraction. It is a sort of dive into the folds of movement, a self-wrapping of skin itself along the boundaries of the body, where the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ cease to be rigidly separated, thus irreparably deconstructing their shape and hence allowing the invisible structural outlines to become visible.It is a process which develops through a strategy of reabsorption, activation of energies within a tactile approach to the body, sinking in the depths of its infinite vibrations.

The joint articulation of these praxis of composition therefore responds to a strategic and functional need for body’s automatisms to outflow. In other words it is a procedure that deconstructs ‘form’ by exploring the body from inside, resonating within spectators’ perception, in their empirical systems, in an analogue reformulation of their sensorial, and therefore motor system, assets.

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II. About the device: the audio-body

Through an investigation on body’s basic, emotional manifestations, Ginette Laurin clinically analyses the heartbeat and breath of dancers’ bodies: the entire audio-piece is nothing but the reformulation –in form of sound- of the pulsating rhythmic base of a dance and of an invisible, organic musicality, which creates a resonance with the choreographic evolutions and dancers’ steps, detected by an appositely designed platform.

In fact, inside the stage mechanism a platform is placed horizontally on the stage perimeter; that structure is pervaded by vibrations generated from the contact between the dancers and the platform. This impact of audio-bodies is detected by the microphones placed under the platform, the vibration of which is spread through the room thank to a spatialization of the sources of sound.

Perceiving heart pulsations – via the use of stethoscopes – activates a reaction affecting the process of building up the mechanisms through the platform.

To this organic and basic pace, handled electro-acoustically by Martin Messier, adds up a musical “becoming” dictated by the original score by Michael Nyman, which functions as a doubled audio-layer within the performance, determining the work’s main rhythm or, vice versa, adapting to the scene’s atmosphere.

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On the top of the audio acoustic dimension, is then the elaboration of a chromatic device which counterpoints the choreographic scene.

In other words, the whole stage apparatus is configured as a living, pulsating organism whose acoustic dimension directly links with the creation of lightwaves that -by gradation- appear of the background. Thus, in this work, the sound wave generated by movement translates into a lightwave. Here, by the amplification of the performer’s heartbeat sound, each movement he enacts functions as an actual medium, a vector of transformation. Also, the screen on the background becomes a sort of sensitive surface, producing luminous imageries; this in reaction to the sound waves propagating from the stage, where the performer, through motion, triggers the whole process. The slightest variation, might that be in the sound hue as well as in the sequence of motions, translates in a stream of light on the screen surface: chromatic vibrations and luminous curves.

Onde de choc is in all respects, a time-sculpture. In fact, the ephemeral dimension generated by its mechanisms allows time to actually manifest through a series of visible vibrations: the vibration of a dancers’ movements, the pulsation of their hearts being turned into a texture of sound or an architecture of light, defining the scene. Such constant game of appearance/disappearance hence makes the sound produced by a body seeable while allowing to listen to the image of light that generates from it.

In other words, we have to conceive the stage as an unveiling mechanism. We gain the perception of a beating heart of which vibrations become a sound wave to then turn into a series of light-shades, questioning the spectator’s sensorial structure of recording, putting him in front of a scene thought to be an actual body made of sound, a palpitating organism.

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III. Corpus : res ipsa et ultima

Every aspect of Onde de Choc appears to be organized around a suspension. It seems that its very atmosphere, its tone, aim to compose an haiku, a sensation able to render with great precision the hue of each individual scene.

n this perspective we can notice a real taste for details and for the process of piecing together a geography of proximity and of surfaces; which surfaces are, in this context, nothing more than bare skin, a face feature, intimacy of breath, grainy pulsation. a light-touched, precise love for a form of tactile experience that goes beyond mere contact and proximity, but opens to the audiographic dimension of bodies: an expanded, infinite anatomy which can only be approached or crossed. Heard.

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  • Enrico Pitozzi Enrico Pitozzi

    Enrico Pitozzi is Professor-in-Charge of the course “Forme della scena multimediale” in the Music and Performing Arts Department at the University of Bologna. He is visiting professor at the Universitè du Quèbec & Montrèal, UQAM [...]

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