‘Nouveau Cirque acrobat”, “dramatist of physics”, and “droll, slapstick, comedian”, Yoann Bourgeois has revolutionised dance with his acrobatic sensibilities and charismatic, gravity defying performances. In 2016, Bourgeois became the first circus-trained artist to direct at the National Choreographic Centre.
The magnetism of Bourgeois’s performances can be attributed to his childhood, “ I grew up in a small isolated village in Jura (mountain region in France). My childhood lasted for a long time and I thought it would last forever. It stopped the day I understood we had to do something with life. I could not answer that question. Fortunately, during this wandering of the end of childhood, I encountered a circus - Le Cirque Plume - who showed me that we can grow while remaining children, and with poeticising our everyday life.”
To many, circus-level acrobatics is one of the rarest performance art forms. It’s a literal suspension of disbelief that awakens the sense of childlike wonder that so many bodies of performance art fail to accomplish. That sense of wonder is what drives Bourgeois forward, “[The] first value is the spirit of playing, that helps me to never become a worker. The second is the research of suspension, to deviate from the balances of power in all the dimensions of existence. The third is, the fact of considering in this existence, first of all, the relationships and re-enchanting [of] our interactions with space.”
What are three relevant problems that you wish to solve or improve with the help of your work?
“To have a more responsible relation to the living, to increase our level of presence and to poeticise life."
Despite being classified as art (one of the most complicated ones too), acrobatics commands the performers to employ the level of mathematical precision akin to star gymnasts. Bourgeois, for example, “creates devices that amplify physical phenomenon”, he says, “the human is more a vector of forces that go through them than an actor. They never initiate movement, they are moved by the invisible flux that surrounds us - gravity, inertia, friction, etc. This position is looking to translate the necessity for availability which is research for presence.”
What is the relationship between performer and audience, if not a game, where both parties bounce energies off each other? To Bourgeois, the point of the game is to create a beautiful poem, “ I have always tried to train a link between my experience as a performer and my experience as a conceiver. These two modes have to be coordinated in the creation and stimulate in me a shift: a change of scale.
“To me, creator, audience and performer share a playground, an imaginary game that consists in to make the poem.”
What is your biggest dream? And your nightmare?
“My biggest dream is to be here, which is the most difficult thing in the world. I believe that love helps in this quest. My worst nightmare would then be to have missed it. “
It’s always fascinating to hear what performers say about people’s movement and their relationships with space at large. Naturally, as it often happens, the insatiable desire for control affects such relationships in different ways, “I am struck by our humanity’s desire of control that incarnates itself in the tiniest gestures. We are confused between balance and stability because we are afraid of life and do not want to die. We try so hard to format life to our scale, and we are losing day after day our child’s eye. That eye that was in a relationship with the immense. I make no difference at all between my work and my life.”
Have you ever experienced a ‘metamorphosis’? What was it like?
“I experience metamorphosis each day, and I do not recognise myself. But I also try to invent myself, and through that metamorphosis, to become who I am. Who we are is always to be conquered.“
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written by Gennady Oreshkin and Julia Horvath
Edited by Gennady Oreshkin
Image Courtesy of Yoann Bourgeois