Last month I went to La Chapelle to see Je Suis Un Autre by Catherine Gaudet with Dany Desjardins and Caroline Gravel. According to the press fluff that accompanied the show (and the program) Ms. Gaudet was attempting to show the multiplicity of beings along with the ambiguity that is hidden under the surface (my bastard translation of “cherche à mettre à jour la multiplicité et l’ambiguïté de l’être qui se cachent sous leur vernis.”
First off, there seems to be some history behind the concept of “Je Suis Un Autre.” Doing a simple Google search, first tosses up something written by Arthur Rimbaud that is written way to academically for me to even be able to concentrate on it for more than 30 seconds.
By the way, for the squareheads in the house, “Je suis un autre.” Translates as “I am another.” And once you sink your teeth into that concept you can keep running for miles and miles if you so desire. I don’t desire. I’m a big fan of Satchel Paige‘s fifth rule for staying young, so feel free to do with the concept of The Other as you see fit.
But then a little further down on the Google results page I came across this doozy.
I don’t think the Zug Im Veins song has anything to do with anything at all, but can serve as a kind of touchstone about the theory behind Quebecois dance. For the most part, from where I’ve been sitting, they seem to presume that they exist in some kind of bubble. More frequently, the choreographers just explain what they are trying to do and how they accomplished it. Very rarely will you hear or read about where some creation came from. The sources of inspiration, the antecedents, the parallels. Or if they are there and I am just missing them, would someone please whack me upside the head and point them out to me next time? Please and thank you.
Because there is a song by Georges Moustaki which does have everything to do with the performance by Dany Desjardins and Caroline Gravel
Je suis un débutant aux tempes qui blanchissent
Un beatnick vieillissant patriarche novice
Jardinier libertin aux goûts d’aventurier
Voyageur immobile et rêveur éveillé
Je suis de ces lézards qui naissent fatigués
Un optimiste amer un pessimiste gai
Un homme d’aujourd’hui à la barbe d’apôtre
Je peux être tout ça pourtant je suis un autre
Je suis toi je suis moi je suis qui me ressemble
Et je ressemble à ceux qui font la route ensemble
Pour chercher quelque chose et pour changer la vie
Plutôt que de mourir d’un rêve inassouvi
Avec eux je m’en vais partout où le vent souffle
Partout où c’est la fête et partout où l’on souffre
Mais lorsque je m’endors au creux des herbes hautes
Je me retrouve seul et je me sens un autre
Je suis venu ce soir la guitare à mon cou
Partager mes chansons et rêver avec vous
Crier d’une voix sourde toutes mes révoltes
Et parler de mes peines d’un air désinvolte
J’ai laissé au vestiaire un reste de pudeur
Pour mieux me découvrir devant les projecteurs
Et chanter les amours qui sont un peu les vôtres
Qui sont les miennes même si je suis un autre
Which when dumped into Google Translate becomes
I am a beginner at the temples that whiten
A beatnik aging patriarch novice
Gardener libertine tastes of adventure
Stationary traveler and daydreamer
I’m one of those lizards that are born tired
An optimistic pessimist bitter gay one
A modern man with the beard of an apostle
I can be all that I am yet another
I am you I am who I like me
And I like those who make the journey together
To search for something and to change lives
Rather than dying of a dream unfulfilled
With them I go wherever the wind blows
Wherever the party and everywhere where people suffer
But when I fall asleep in the hollow of grass
I find myself alone and I feel another
I have come tonight to the guitar around my neck
Share my songs and dream with you
Shouting in a hoarse voice all my rebellion
And talk about my troubles with an air of casual
I left the locker room a remnant of shame
To better find me in front projectors
Sing and the loves that are a bit yours
Which are mine even if I am another
Sorry, but they haven’t quite figured out how to do machine translations that rhyme.
Anyhows this is just a very long winded way of saying that Ms. Gaudet writes in the program (and in the press fluff that accompanied the show) “…je suis une zone ambiguë et floue, je suis tout et son contraire. Je suis végétal, animal, matière en devenir.” (for the blokes: I am fluid and ambiguous, I am everything and its opposite. I am vegetable, animal, stuff not yet made.) Which if you don’t look too closely is pretty much the same gosh darn thing that M. Moustaki sings (sorry that I wasn’t able to find a copy of the song). I (and by extension the other members of the audience) shouldn’t be having to do research to figure out where a performance is coming from. Heck, maybe even next time, they can figure out some way to incorporate the song into the performance.
Speak of performing, I should at some point get around to talking about it, dontcha think? Judging from the promo videos
And how they are not at all related to anything I remember seeing, my guess would be that this was not an easy show to get to stage, and when it is performed at the OFFTA later this year it’s going to be still different.
For the most part, I will take the harsh, rude, nasty and unkind side and say that I don’t think Ms. Gaudet succeeded in showing how bodies react when freed from feelings, emotions and consequences. Which isn’t to say Je Suis Un Autre was a bad performance, quite the contrary. A full month after the fact and I still get all warm and fuzzy when thinking about it. Ms. Gravel and M. Desjardins were extremely tight (I don’t know what it is but when when I see people jumping up and down at the same time and only hear one thump every time they land I get goosebumps on my arms, the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I scrawl in really big letters on my notepad “OMG! They’re AWESOME!!!!” I think it might have something to do with my inability to jump up and down and make only one thump when I land) and there were a bunch, not quite a plethora, but a significant number of tableaus that I thought were quite nice.
My take on the piece is kind of like when I tried to make crab cakes. For some reason, I forgot to strain the (frozen) crab meat. As a consequence when I went to fry the mixture and it ended up being more like a mash than a cake. Everyone, without exception, told me it was delicious and scrumptious. But to me it wasn’t crab cake, it was fried crab mash. Sometimes in a performance you got good dancers doing bad moves precisely. Other times you might have bad dancers doing great moves badly. Then there are still times when you have great dancers doing great moves precisely. That was the case here. The only fault I would find is in the explanation of the moves. Which was like me trying to pass off my mash as cakes. Trying to pass off the movements as giving some concept of “other” just did not come through in any way, shape or form. Even if it wasn’t Rimbaud’s or Moustaki’s concept of the other.
But thankfully there’s this guy Rick Allison.
He also wrote a song called “Je Suis Un Autre.” But his take on being an other, was more pedestrian and simple. In the song he basically outs himself as a liar. While I would not go so far as to call Ms. Gaudet a liar, I do think that she might have worn some blinders while working on the piece that prevented her from seeing it from a distance.
Ms. Gaudet and Fred Gravel, the lighting designer for the show, are members of what I would call a loose collective of choreographers and dancers, 2e Porte à Gauche. From where I sit at their performances, they seem to me to be similar to the cool kids in high school. No matter what they do, everyone thinks it’s amazing and wonderful. Their parties are always the most popular, and your mom always asks you why you can’t be more like them.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a negative or bad review of something done by one of the members of the 2e Porte à Gauche, unless it was one I had written myself. Given the amount of dance that happens here in Montreal, it seems to me that they get an inordinate amount of press (specifically covers on Voir). But then again, I have not done any systematic study, and as I am fond of saying, I have been wrong in the past, and I will be wrong in the future.
So, what’s the upshot of all of this? I dunno. Since Je Suis Un Autre will be performed as part of this year’s OffTA, I’d strongly suggest going to see it. But I also have some sinking suspicion that the performance there is going to be very different from the performance I saw last month. Which means you gotta have faith in M. Desjardins’ and Ms. Gravel’s ability to dance, since if Ms. Gaudet is going to create some kind of new performance each time until she gets it right, and just reuse the name then I’m not really going to have any confidence in what she calls it.
Kind of like Ella’s version of Mack the Knife, where she forgets the lyrics. Yes, the song is a great song, but it is her performance of the song that is absofuckinglutely incredible. And just to hammer home the point; can you name the person who translated the Kurt Weill’s lyrics into English? When you have great performers, just about anything they do is wonderful. It doesn’t matter what the title is, nor the theory behind it.