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About the Show
Gala offers a different approach to dance. In this collective art form, Jérôme Bel’s project brings together dance professionals and amateurs of diverse backgrounds. The different acts never call on us to pass judgement, but they reveal the way in which each person’s cultural repertoire involves them in a singular relationship with that desire for something else that dance is.
After Disabled Theater, a piece performed by a troupe of mentally handicapped actors, and Cour d’honneur, which put a group of spectators centre stage, Gala uses the same question as its starting point: how can we bring to the realms of onstage representation individuals and bodies that are all too often excluded from such a possibility? How can we make best use of all the various resources of this unique apparatus, the theatre – with its codes, venues, genres and professionals – in order to enlarge the perimeter of what can be shown in it? And how can we (re)shape it into a democratic means that lies within the grasp of all those drawn to dance, singing and the performing arts?
Driven on by the experience of workshops run with amateurs, Jérôme Bel sought to set down a flexible framework to travel with, and which could give rise to a wide variety of forms. He wanted it to be accessible to amateurs from all different horizons and to provide them with the opportunity to give their all and make the project their own. In doing so, he took that most “commonplace” of theatrical experiences: the gala, a festive, group occasion, spanning end-of-year shows and amateur performances. He then subverted the genre in order to cover different styles and fragments of stories, which would build up an inventory of a dance “with no particular qualities” and bring out all the possible relationships that are unique to the body and voice. What is it that makes us dance? How do we watch dance that might be fragile and precarious without indulging in notions of judgement, such as “well done” or “badly done”? The result is a gala that is bitty, patched up, traversed by moments of reflection, like galleries of living portraits. With its “Fail again. Fail better” emphasis, Gala goes from one theatre to the next, like “a mirror taking a stroll by the side of a road”, and brings home to us something about the making of those we are watching as well as the way we watch.
About Jérôme Bel
In his early pieces (name given by the author, Jérôme Bel, Shirtology…), Jérôme Bel applied structuralist operations to dance in order to single out the primary elements from theatrical spectacle. The neutralization of formal criteria and the distance he took from choreographic language led him to reduce his pieces to their operative minimum, the better to bring out a critical reading of the economy of the stage, and of the body on it.
His interest subsequently shifted from dance as a stage practice to the issue of the performer as a particular individual. The series of portraits of dancers (Véronique Doisneau, Cédric Andrieux…) broaches dance through the narrative of those who practice it, emphasizes words in a dance spectacle, and stresses the issue of the singularity of the stage. Here, formal and institutional criticism takes the form of a deconstruction through discourse, in a subversive gesture which radicalizes its relation to choreography.
Through his use of biography, Jérôme Bel politicizes his questions, aware as he is of the crisis involving the subject in contemporary society and the forms its representation takes on stage. In embryonic form in The show must go on, he deals with questions about what the theatre can be in a political sense—questions which come to the fore from Disabled Theater on. In offering the stage to non-traditional performers (amateurs, people with physical and mental handicaps, children…), he shows a preference for the community of differences over the formatted group, and a desire to dance over choreography, and duly applies the methods of a process of emancipation through art.
He has been invited to contemporary art biennials and museums (Tate Modern, MoMA, Documenta 13, the Louvre…), where he has put on performances and shown films. Two of them, Véronique Doisneau and Shirtology, are in the collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou. Jérôme Bel is regularly invited to give lectures at universities (Waseda, UCLA, Stanford…). In 2013, together with the choreographer Boris Charmatz, he co-authored Emails 2009-2010, which was published by Les Presses du Réel.
In 2005, Jérôme Bel received a Bessie Award for the performances of The show must go on given in New York. Three years later, with Pichet Klunchun, he won the Routes Princesse Margriet Award for Cultural Diversity (European Cultural Foundation) for the performance Pichet Klunchun and myself. Disabled Theater was chosen in 2013 for the Theatertreffen in Berlin and won the Swiss “present-day dance creation” prize.
Conception Jérôme Bel Assistant Maxime Kurvers Assistants to the local restaging Sheila Atala and Maxime Kurvers Performed by and with Anne White, Cameron Birts, Megan Bridge, Julian Darden, Tristan Price, Zachary Ermey, Kharrima “KC” Stevens, Emma Marshall, Delano Turnipseed, Erin McNulty, Helen Gassman, Cliff Schwinger, Cynthia Son, Felice Jordan,Mel Krodman, Edgardo Colon Costumes The dancers
Production R.B. Jérôme Bel (Paris) Coproduction Dance Umbrella (London), TheaterWorks Singapore/72-13, KunstenFestivaldesArts (Brussels), Tanzquartier Wien, Nanterre-Amandiers Centre Dramatique National, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Theater Chur (Chur) and TAK Theater Liechtenstein (Schaan) – TanzPlan Ost, Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia, Théâtre de la Ville (Paris), HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen), La Commune Centre dramatique national d’Aubervilliers, Tanzhaus nrw (Düsseldorf), House on Fire with the support of the European Union cultural program
R.B. Jérôme Bel is supported by Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d’Ile- de-France, French Ministry for Culture and Communication, and by the Institut Français, French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, for its international tours.
FringeArts thanks Lisa Roberts and David Selzer for their generous support of this presentation.
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