The bank for a changing world

Yoann Bourgeois, or the art of suspension

  • 03.01.2020

Circus? Dance? Acrobatics? A Yoann Bourgeois show is all that at once. It is a dose of poetry and a dash of gentle metaphysics which, in a few years, have become the magic potion of an artist with a unique style.

The art of suspension

Bourgeois trained in trampoline, juggling and trapeze at the Centre national des arts du cirque in Chalons en Champagne and in dance at the Centre national de danse contemporaine in Angers.  Between 2006 and 2010, he performed with choreographer Maguy Marin’s company. From this experience he has kept an imaginary world balancing between two disciplines, which nurtured his first "small forms" in a well-named "Atelier du Joueur" initiated in his village in the Jura.  The creation in 2011 of The Art of the Fugue, based on the eponymous and revisited score by Johann Sebastian Bach, opened all the doors for him. In this duet with the circus artist Marie Fonte, the newly 30-year-old brilliantly draws upon his favourite themes: the relationship to time, space, matter, gravity and the play of bodies "in suspension". 

He who Falls - Yoann Bourgeois // La Scène Nationale d'Orléans

Decisive support  

At this point in his young career, when, in his words, "everything had to be built", the BNP Paribas Foundation decided to support his projects.  The first funding agreement, signed in 2012, allowed him to structure the Yoann Bourgeois Company founded two years earlier. "The Foundation positioned itself right from the launch of my company and supported us through the major stages of our development," he says. "It’s tailor-made support over time: time, without which no real deepening is possible; and tailor-made, thanks to which a qualitative dimension is added,” in other words, the means to reflect, experiment and move forward. Created for the 2014 Lyon Dance Biennial, He Who Falls attests to this gradual maturing process. This staging of the balance of power - in every sense of the word - between six individuals and a floor subjected to various physical constraints won over the general public and critics alike while raising vertigo and imbalance to the rank of dance. 

Seeking and creating 

In 2016, Bourgeois, who now calls himself "a circus artist whose work is choreographic", was appointed to jointly head the National Choreographic Centre of Grenoble with choreographer Rachid Ouramdane.  The BNP Paribas Foundation’s support has enabled him to simultaneously continue his research work, the source of the creations that feed the CCN.  Like a craftsman relentlessly polishing his forms, Bourgeois tirelessly explores and reinvents his favourite themes,  especially vertigo.

"The loss of orientation caused by vertigo is one of man’s archaic preoccupations,” he says.  In the historical sequence we’re going through, it resonates in a new way.  In a time of profound upheaval, the depiction of spatial and temporal disorientation speaks to all."  

New playgrounds

With this in mind, the circus choreographer undertook to probe what he calls Attempts to Approach a Suspension Point.  This work in progress where "circus material is treated choreographically" is situated "at the crossroads of mechanical physics and time", The result  is a constellation of stage constructions from sketches to numbers that "present a man in a specific pose"—leaning on a turntable, spiral staircase, table or chair. These performances "make a point of suspension perceptible where gravity is abolished in the exactness of the moment." Since 2018, Bourgeois has also been exploring virtual reality. With the Foundation’s funding, he co-created Fugue VR, a filmed and mixed-reality variation on his Trampoline Fugue. This foray into other areas is an exciting experience for both the artist and the Foundation.

Photo Crédit : Celui qui tombe - Yoann Bourgeois © Géraldine Aresteanu 

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