Première at Gesnerallee, Zurich, January 7th, 1998. Choreography for 6 dancers.
“All of our acts, extraordinary or everyday – and particularly the everyday – whether we open a door, write a letter, offer a hand, should be done with no less care than if the fate of the world and the courses of the stars depended on them; and in truth the fate of the world and the courses of the stars do depend upon them.”
Christian Bobin, The Remoteness of the World
Let me confess: for me, LIGHTNESS is the stuff of dreams, of fantasies. Always, I have been fascinated by those who seem to go through life as though barriers dissolve before them, leaving behind nothing but the echo of a laugh or the faint stir of the air where they have passed. Yes, I am fascinated – but what else do I feel? That ‘elegance’ is certainly admirable, but what of (dare I say it?) the ‘lack of weight’, the ‘freedom from gravity’? Is it not fearful?
I realize that this feeling for the WEIGHT of things leads me to the idea of ‘the burden of having been born’ which Cioran speaks of, and which focuses desire onto a wish for LIGHTNESS. A wish also for utter simplicity, which one realizes can only be achieved through effort. Like the dream of mastering a language, which is followed by the realization that the grammar and syntax somehow have to be learned. This is my concept of dance. The discovery and use of a language which I know I possess, which we all possess, and that can be expressed in dance. But there’s something which must also be asked: In today’s world, how can LIGHTNESS be prevented from floating us completely away? How can we feel that LIGHTNESS, without losing touch with the WORLD?
Philippe Saire, choreographer
Philippe Saire’s dancers practically fly
Philippe Saire’s Study in Lightness is certainly his best work yet. Minutely choreographed, both joyful and earnest, it defies gravity and floats you out of your seat. Philippe Saire keeps his feet on the ground yet his gaze is on the stars. A Study in Lightness is composed of two, quite distinct parts. The first, pragmatic and clear, is the “study” itself. In a decor of clinical, circumstantial whiteness, the dancers express the concept not of lightness but of weight. Here a shoulder lifts and lowers, there a finger does the same. Notes are taken. A dancer holds a body high, another has a feather in the palm of a hand. Both fall – but which will reach the floor first? The feeling is of rebellion, the body-language betrays resentment of this weight that continually pulls us down. Anatomical diagrams appear on-stage, birds sing, the voice of Jean-Luc Godard is heard – we are reminded, unavoidably but amusingly, that lightness is nothing more than a fantasy.
But is it? What if lightness were not a condition of earthly life, but more a manifestation of the soul’s transparency? Not a physical quantity but an instinctive feeling? Replying to the first dance, a second begins. A dance in the dark, or at the most under infinitely discreet rays of light. The movements flutter against the dark, like tiny flames. The bodies appear and disappear, but whether on the left or the right we cannot decide. They glide with mathematical precision, silently or to the music of Bach.
The demonstration avoids the pitfalls of laboriousness or tenseness. It escapes because of its confident links between the two parts, both extremely well conceived and mutually contrasting.
The performance is flawless. Philippe Saire’s dancers are magnificently equal in their powers, the costumes are sober and original, the lighting is diabolically subtle. The succession of Bach pieces and Julien Sulser’s audio backing help the work steer clear of the trap of musical flippancy. The atmosphere is akin to a Peter Greenaway film story.
Journal de Genève et Gazette de Lausanne, Philippa de Roten, January 98
In his new two-part creation, Philippe Saire links anatomy to enchantment
The Lausanne choreographer has striven to invent a new enchantment, one which is “tuned to the times we live in and the people we are”. He succeeds magnificently. A Study in Lightness is a diptych: first an amusing, half-hour anatomy lesson, and then thirty minutes of pure enchantment.
Choreography, music, and the inventively designed costumes by Jocelyne Pache, turn fascination into lightness. A dazzling performance.
24 Heures, Jean-Pierre Pastori, January 98
Saire, or total joy
The Lausanne choreographer presents his new creation, A Study in Lightness. A ballet in two parts, anatomical and humorous, that will lift you out of your seat. Just forty, Philippe Saire radiates maturity. Now eleven years at the head of his own dance company, the Lausanne choreographer is still advancing in the difficult art of contemporary ballet. As the years go by his creativity blossoms, his choreographic vocabulary expands, and humour penetrates his creations more and more. The responses of theatre administrators and audiences rarely deceive: the company is frequently on tour, in Switzerland, France, Denmark or the USA.
A Study in Lightness, the new creation which opened in Zürich at the beginning of January, is pure enchantment. In the first part, “Study“, three male and three female dancers analyse the terrible phenomenon of weight, which holds us implacably down. In a series of brisk, rapid and precise gestures, each dancer sounds out the other, gauging the weight of a leg, a hand or a head. Bodies are lifted with suppleness and delicacy – then suddenly let fall, helpless subjects of gravity.
The amusing, charmingly mischievous, mock-scientific atmosphere of the first part contrasts with that of the second. Here, the numerous stage crossings appear at first to be standard classical movements. But in fact every step is pure Philippe Saire innovation, depicting humans’ strivings to ride on air and overcome gravity.
From every point of view, Study in Lightness is breathtaking: conceptual rigour, technical mastery, humour. You float above your seat – but that’s an extra.
Le Matin, Isabelle Fabrycy, January 98
In Lausanne and Geneva, the Philippe Saire company presents Study in Lightness.
From learning anatomy to floating on air, from the laboratory to the forest. Magnificent. This could be Philippe Saire’s clearest work yet. And also the most unhampered, passing from physics to metaphysics, from laboratory white to forest dark, from precise gestures to sweeping abandon. It is a work beginning with an imprisoning certainty (weight, the most widespread law of physics) and ending with a tantalizing question: what if lightness were the key to living in harmony with darkness and with death?
Le Nouveau Quotidien, Stéphane Bonvin, January 98
Karine Grasset, Carmen Marti / Vinciane Gombrovicz, Corinne Rochet, Massimo Biacchi, Laurent Coderch / Matthieu Burner, Nicholas Pettit
Set and light design
Julien Sulser, Jean-Sébastien Bach