This September, Breakin’ Convention brings the work of French choreographer Pierre Rigal to the stage, fusing contemporary and hip hop styles in Scandale. We spoke to Pierre to find out more.
You studied mathematical economics and cinema as well as being a top athlete specialising in 400m hurdles!! How did you end up becoming a choreographer?
Not a coincidence but almost! It’s a question of instinct. One day I took an African contemporary dance class with a friend and I really loved it. I looked at a lot of videos of pieces and it quickly became something very important in my life. After a few years I had an audition as a choreographer in London. At the beginning I thought it would only last for 3 or 6 months because I thought I was too old because (I was already almost 30 at this point and already working in the movie industry). Now, more than 10 years later, I’m still in dance and creating my own work. I suppose dance is the best way for me to express myself. It was more natural for me to express myself through the body.
Your work is often described as being on the border between hip hop, theatre and contemporary dance. Where do your different influences come from?
I like to mix different styles. Of course, I learnt a bit of African dance but also a bit of contemporary and hip hop, and I like to mix the aesthetics of these types of movement. I also like to work with actors, singers, contemporary and classical dancers. I did a piece for the Paris Opera Ballet, which is certainly one of the most classical dance companies. I like to understand how different people move, how they are interested in dance and then I compose my own choreography, my own universe, with the collaboration and participation of all these talented dancers. In Scandale, I work with some very talented dancers and I encourage them to play with the borders of movement aesthetics, mixing contemporary choreography and also perhaps primitive and African traditional dance.
Your piece Scandale explores the origins of choreography and questions whether music is the mother of dance. As a choreographer, is music always the starting point for your work?
In my own work the music is a partner, rather than a mother. Usually we compose the music at the same time or sometimes after the choreography. The music of my pieces is usually original, with the musician/composer present during rehearsals and the creation of the movement. He is looking at the movement we are creating and then he starts to compose in parallel with us. I like to work in this way because it allows the music to be very ‘in-dialogue’ with the movement.
In Scandale, the composer is waiting for the dancers first; waiting for their sounds, the noises they are making. The breaths, the cries, the love. The musician captured these sounds live and then composed his own trance music.
For me, it’s important that the audience experience what the music does to the body. Sometimes when we hear music, especially trance or ritual forms of music, the body is obliged to move. It cannot stay still. Perhaps the audience will experience this a little bit!
Your work is often very theatrical and tongue in cheek, creating visual spectacles on the stage! Can we expect any surprises in Scandale?
Scandale is a very choreographic piece, with some light surprises and scenography surprises! The main purpose of the piece is the energy and movement of the dancers, and also the link between the energy of the musician and the music. I think that the scenography is very simple, but with something very simple we can create some very beautiful images.
What has it been like working with dancers from the b-boy crew Yeah Yellow on this piece?
We had worked together for a while before establishing their own crew, Yeah Yellow. We ended up doing a show that was more for the theatre; a narrative fictional piece. Yeah Yellow is a very spectacular battle crew and I like these two different ways of seeing hip hop. Hip hop can be very efficient for battles and very inspiring for longer, narrative-based shows.
Why did you choose to name the work ‘Scandale’?
The etymology of this word ‘scandale’ comes from the word ‘scandere’ in Latin, which means ‘stumble’ in English. Change the normality of the walk. That’s why later it became ‘Scandale’ – something that changes the normality. I was interested in the stem of this word and also the same word in French, ‘scancion’, which is kind of repetitive singing. I like the link between these two etymologic interpretations.
What was your biggest challenge in creating Scandale?
I like surprises, and I have to create the right conditions to allow the birth of surprises and to be aware of them and catch all the little ideas that could be developed. It’s like a game with some stress, some love, some joy and when it’s finished and the audience like the piece, we are very happy. That’s why I’m excited to come back to London, to Sadler’s Wells, and for Breakin’ Convention to present this piece!
Scandale is performed at Sadler’s Wells on 5 & 6 Sep. Tickets are available now priced at £20 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online at sadlerswells.com