The Passants Project
“Belsunce is not the subject of your project but the place where you danced, the place that you revealed, framed by your dance. Belsunce becomes the theatre of the everyday gestures not only through dance but also through your anonymous presence, readable in the walk of the passers-by as an unconscious dance, as a dance that doesn’t know itself to be a dance, spontaneous, free, a dance of all the people, a dance of the crutches, of the children, of the women, of the young people, of the glances and the bodies multiplied in a district where the street is enlivened by an energy that we don’t find in other districts.
Paul-Emmanuel Odin, artist and member of the collective La Compagnie.
We lived a 6-month journey in the Belsunce district of Marseille, our city, hosted by an artists’ studio dedicated to contemporary art: La Compagnie. During this period, we performed daily, dancing in the streets, with different schedules, from early morning to nightfall. It was not our desire to invite a large audience or to propose a spectacular form, we wanted to “find ourselves” among the passers-by, in their rhythm, the rhythm of the neighborhood. A discreet but watchful camera was the privileged witness of these moments. These dance meetings – there were about fifty of them – were advertised the same day on the door of la Compagnie and indicated on a map of the neighbourhood. As for the week’s programme, people would have to ask by email to get the places and times of the performances, but also the training times (open trainings took place in the morning), the next video sessions, the proposals of other artists that we invited, a programme held during the 6 months of this research.
In order to tell the story, to show it to as many people as possible, and to restore the dance materials found in the streets of Belsunce, we also proposed 3 dance meetings to la Compagnie itself. We tried to propose a different experience for each one of them, trying to bring into play the same performance space and what we were doing there. These meetings, lasting 3 or 4 hours, were settings of dances, video and super 8 projections, sounds, recorded and noted words, reactions of passers-by or long conversations… the traces of our presence in the outdoors.
This residency at la Compagnie allowed us to reexamine our dance, as well as our relationship to public spaces and “protected” spaces of representation: the street or the theatre, as two places of art, very simply. Dancing and searching, for one and for the other, a desire to continue tracing paths that go from one to the other… The experience continued in the streets of Regla, in Havana, in Beirut, and in Warsaw, in the Praga district.
The work process of Belsunce led us to two performances, exploring the same themes, but with a different presentation and relationship to the audience: a short outdoor piece created in Havana for the Urban Dance Festival, Calle Obrapia #4, performed in a busy street again, and an indoor installation piece, Passants, in which the audience is “integrated” into the performance space, with video and film projections, soundtrack and live music.
Passants bears witness to long periods of dancing in the streets, to encounters, to the stories of men and women. We have affirmed a concrete, carnal, physical, committed dance, in exact opposition to the aseptization of bodies and daily social interactions. Passants was created during a residency at 3bisf, a contemporary art space housed in the psychiatric hospital in Aix-en-Provence, an atypical place where creation is always in contact with patients.