JErome Bel (2021)
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About the Show
French choreographer Jérôme Bel (Gala, The show must go on, Cédric Andrieux) continues his renowned portrait series, this time examining himself. Through a combination of lecture, archival video excerpts, and live dance, Bel constructs a genealogy of the driving forces behind his work — what he calls an “auto-bio-choreo-graphy.” He reflects on the doubts, commitments, failures, and questions present throughout his career and creative process. In this impassioned illumination of the motivations of contemporary performance and postmodern dance, the personal becomes entangled with the artistic and the political.
For ecological reasons, Bel and his company stopped traveling by plane in 2019. This performance, therefore, relies on a unique collaboration with Philadelphia dancer Megan Bridge (Fidget). Bridge serves as director and translator, in addition to portraying Bel on stage. She embodies Bel’s honesty and vulnerability, holding tension between humanism and formalism.
Text, videos: Jérôme Bel
Assistant: Maxime Kurvers
Direction: Megan Bridge
Translation of the text: Megan Bridge
With: Megan Bridge, Kharrima “KC” Stevens, Edgardo Colon, Destiny Nguyen, Mauri Walton, Siheed Woods, Erin McNulty, Eddie Fifield, Jamie Ray-Leonetti, Cliff Schwinger, Amelia Terrapin
Producer: R.B. Jérôme Bel
Co-producers: Ménagerie de Verre (Paris), La Commune centre dramatique national d’Aubervilliers, Festival d’Automne à Paris, R.B. Jérôme Bel (Paris)
The writing of the text of this show is part of the creative process of Sustainable theatre ?, conceived by Katie Mitchell, Jérôme Bel and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, and co-produced by STAGES (Sustainable Theatre Alliance for a Green Environmental Shift). Co-funded by European Union; Dramaten Stockholm; National Theater & Concert Hall, Taipei; NTGent; Piccolo Teatro di Milano; Teatro d’Europa; Teatro Nacional D. Maria II Lisboa; Théâtre de Liège; Lithuanian National Drama Theatre; National Theatre of Croatia Zagreb; Slovene National Theatre Maribor; Trafo Budapest; MC93 – Maison de la culture de Seine-Saint-Denis. RB Jérôme Bel receives support from the Regional Department of Cultural Affairs of Île-de-France – Ministry of Culture.
FRINGE FESTIVAL CO-PRODUCERS: Lynne & Bert Strieb, Tony Forte
About the Artists
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, Isadora Duncan…) 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 and Gala 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.
Since 2019, for ecological reasons, Jérôme Bel and his company no longer use airplanes for their travels and it is with this new paradigm that his latest performances (Xiao Ke, Laura Pante…) have been created and produced.
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. En 2021, Jérôme Bel and Wu-Kang Chen received the Taishin Performing Arts Award for the performance Dances for Wu-Kang Chen.
Megan Bridge is an internationally touring dancer, choreographer, producer, and dance scholar based in Philadelphia. She has worked with Jérôme Bel on several projects, including The Show Must Go On and Gala in the Philadelphia productions, and she staged and directed Gala at the Miami Institute of Contemporary Art in 2020. Bridge is the co-director of Fidget, a platform for her collaborative work with composer, designer, and musicologist Peter Price. She is particularly interested in the historical lineages and discursive frameworks that situate her work. Bridge holds a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase, and an MFA in dance from Temple University, where she teaches a variety of studio and lecture courses in the Dance Department. She has performed and presented her choreography at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, FringeArts, and many other venues throughout Philadelphia and the United States, as well as abroad in Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia, France, Germany, Georgia, Japan, Macedonia, South Africa, and Switzerland.
Jamie Ray-Leonetti is the Associate Director of Policy at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. She has a BA in Humanities from York College of Pennsylvania and a JD from Temple University School of Law.
In her spare time, Jamie enjoys singing with the Philly Pops Festival Chorus, a 170 voice, auditioned, all volunteer group of singers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Jamie identifies as a proud member of the disability community. She is honored to be part of this inclusive production.
Mauri Walton is an actor, dancer, movement-artist, cabaret/host/singer/performer and multi-media-performance-
Edgardo Colon was born and raised in North Philadelphia. He caught the bug for dance around his teen years and it’s become his roaring passion since. He might work retail during the day, but he works as a cabaret Latin artist during the night and weekends and that’s where he truly comes alive. Dance is his life source!
The performances of Jérôme Bel (2021) are dedicated to the memory of Nicholas Elizalde. Nick was a 14 year old football player at Saul High School, who was killed on Tuesday afternoon in a shooting near Roxborough High. Nick was also the little brother of one of our cast members in this project, Siheed Woods. FringeArts and the entire cast and crew wish to offer up our support to Siheed and his family as they grieve.
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