Every year in July, theatre fans flock to Avignon
for the performing arts festival with an outstanding reputation on the international culture scene. Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, the mission of the Avignon Festival is a bold one: to assemble the most diverse possible audience in one place for cutting edge, artistically demanding performances.
For two weeks, at the height of summer, Avignon is transformed into a stage, with heritage buildings providing the backdrop, and welcomes thousands of spectators spanning all generations and nationalities. The whole town comes to life as the different acts unfold: its streets, squares and terraces become a maze of creativity and encounters.
Over the years, the BNP Paribas Foundation and the Festival have built up a special relationship with the artists who come to perform. The Foundation, recognised as being one of the few sponsors of contemporary dance and new circus arts, is very involved in this 64th edition of the festival, which will take place from July 7-27.
In fact, the Festival will include the latest creations by two of the foundation's partners: “Chouf Ouchouf”, performed by a group of acrobats from Tangiers directed by the duo Zimmerman and De Perrot and “Micro”, a rock show by the choreographer Pierre Rigal.
“Chouf ouchouf”, which literally means “Look, but really look” holds up a magnifying glass to daily life and manages to elevate it to a work of art. Although what happens on stage is realistic, it is also poetic. It's a mixture of song, dance, music and balancing acts that are somewhere between the ordinary and the unknown. On stage, the town of Tangiers is evoked via a series of scenes that are brought to life by a host of characters as burlesque as they are moving. Neither naïve nor moralising, “Chouf Ouchouf” is a journey into the depths of humanity in the company of women and men who have decided to open up to us so that we can take a look – and really look.
As for Pierre Rigal, choreographer and dancer supported by the BNP Paribas Foundation since 2008, he will be at the festival with “Micro”, which takes the shape of an unstructured rock concert. This unusual show contains a wealth of meaning and innovative choreography. A well-rounded show in which the music is as visible as well as audible, “Micro” urges us to ponder the paradox of a rock concert: ever-present energy served up in a way that has become archetypal. Rigal completely transforms the musicians' usual set up: the drums are scattered all over the place and get gradually further and further away from the drummer and while the guitarist strums while standing on his head, his guitar producing what seem like long-forgotten sounds. There is song, music, drama, dance, lights, and physical and decorative props: the actor-musicians improvise new movements, forgetting themselves in unusual rhythms, and in reinventing the structure of the concert become charismatic showmen and real rock stars.
The Foundation is also involved in the Kadmos Network (Mediterranean network of cultural cooperation) and is taking part in a conference on the topic of “Sponsorship and Creativity”, organised in collaboration with the SACD (society of authors), which asks the following question: the sponsorship of performing arts is booming, but what is at stake? Sponsors, artists, cultural institutions, entrepreneurs and project leaders will all contribute to this highly topical debate.