The praise of stumbling, Frédéric Valabrègue, Le cercle nautique de Pékin May 2000
Martine Pisani’s choreographies work on material substance. Yet this does not make her a sculptor but leads her to explore notions of centering, gravity and weight.
They start by focusing on what makes the substance of a body, i.e. the moment when the social shell opens up and allows a fundamental way of "being in the world" to overflow.
They deal with the body beyond resemblance, representation or even beyond dramatization. Just as it is common place to notice how the unconscious suddenly reveals itself in a slip of the tongue or in a subconsciously deliberate mistake, she reveals bodies when they are no longer under surveillance, yet not totally relaxed. It is not about being natural, but about being naturally awkward. This charming clumsiness of ours. A confession of our inadequacy to angles that we would like to smooth over.
Let’s say that dance is based on the walk, which already says so much about people, at least as much as their fingerprints. One’s walk, one’s gait are unique, implying tempo, sense of time, ease and embarassment. A walk contains a thousand dances, a thousand different impulses that can all be "blocked", i.e whose properties can be translated into systems.
Martine Pisani’s dances come from observing bodies that are not characters, but become anonymous characters once their basic properties have been systematically outlined — as a bearing.
Similarly, leaping aside, tripping or stumbling contain a thousand dances. Those choreographies focus on a primary space full of hesitating movements They work on this hesitation and cultivate the schizophrenic and burlesque zone described by a French phrase : "être à côté de ses pompes" [litteraly "to walk next to one’s shoes", i.e. "to have one’s head in the clouds, to be spaced out"].
On stage, various spaces appear distinctly not because they result from a composition but defined by a series of avoidance actions. No harmony, but almost. Almost a unison. Almost a group. Among other childish tendencies, we tend to step on the edge of a shadow, or to hop along the limit between the shade and the light, just as the child in Rossellini’s movie. Can one imagine a "stagescape" organized by such tendencies ? Or a "stagescape" delineated by a certain type of relationship, a peculiar way of getting closer and simultaneously keeping one’s distance ?
Figures emerge from a specific request : to take into account inadequacies and impossible adjustments on the one hand, and on the other hand the way a blunder can be made up for — i.e. how a movement can rhyme with a blunder and make up for it. Hence a state of research — beyond a relative use of improvisation —, that characterizes relationships between dancers.
The performers do not let in any narrative beyond what is suggested by the slick imperfection of their presence, a bare way for them to be there, pleased and apologetic, as is confirmed and emphasized by a few selected texts — by Stéphane Mallarmé or Daniil Harms.
An impression of delicacy comes from feeling neither parody nor compassionate tenderness : the works operate as clockworks similar to the ones developed by Buster Keaton, but without any sense of inexorability. It is as if the mechanical system were slightly quivering. Perhaps playing with the premonition of its desintegration. Or perhaps searching for a possibly different modus operandi through its very desintegration.