The ghosts of Europe

The Ballet of the Opera National Du Rhin, France, presents ‘Fireflies’ as part of the Dance-France festival at Suzanne Dellal Center.

‘Fireflies’ (photo credit: AGATHE POUPENEY)
(photo credit: AGATHE POUPENEY)
Bruno Bouché, the choreographer and the company’s artistic director, is very excited to return to Tel Aviv.
“I was here with a small company I had while I was still at the Paris Opera Ballet, and again at the Suzanne Dellal International Exposure. I like it very much,” he confesses.
“I am a new director and I feel that for the first program of the season I have a project of transformation on my hands. I have to deal with the question of what is ballet today. This is a beautiful institution and we have a good company, but we have to imagine something new. We have to make a difference. The classical ballet is the base, but we have to ask what we can do with it.”
Bouché, who was appointed as the director of the company last year, says that he would like to break the rules. He explains the classical ballet as a language that can be applied in contemporary dance.
“I would like to break the rules. It is really my first work for this company. You really need to respect where we come from, but also to think where we are going.”
The wonderful dancers of this Ballet are trained in classical ballet, and the dance combines classical techniques with contemporary ideas. Bouché says that for him classical ballet is the base.
“I like to speak about the academic language. It’s like when a painter uses classical technique to express modern ideas. I want to create something that is today. My aesthetic is contemporary, but I use the language of classical ballet as a starting point, as the base. It’s formal, but we can express a lot with that language. We have to fill it with today’s energy.” He says.
Bouché is not speaking only about the aesthetics of the dance, but also about the need to project a political point of view and to be involved in the community.
“Last year our program was more poetic; this year it is more political. It’s my project – it reflects myself, my thoughts and beliefs. I think as artists we must take responsibility. We dancers work a lot alone in the studio, separated from the rest of the world. I understand some artists that work just for their art. I cannot. I am worried about the world and the politics.”
As a national center for choreography, Bouche feels that he is on a mission. “We have a mission to educate, to offer residence for young artists and companies. Now we have company from Strasbourg; we have to hold also educational programs.”
Bouché always knew he wanted to be a dancer.
“I am from a little town near Paris. I began to dance as a young boy. I would play music and dance. I knew that is what I wanted to do. It was a way to find a place for myself in the family and in the world.
“My first teacher was a very determined woman. She was great and we stayed in touch; we are still close. She told me that if I want to have a career in dance, I must study in the Paris Opera Ballet. I was a shy boy from the village, and the school – although it has changed – was still a very elitist place. Many of the other students and the teachers were sophisticated Parisians and I came from a simple background. My family was working class. I had to find my way in that elitist place.”
Bouché studied there from the age of 11 and when he graduated at 17, he tried to be accepted at the company.
“It was my dream. At first, I was not given a position; there was no place. Later, they held more auditions and I got in, but the fact that I had to think about other possibilities opened my mind. I wrote to other companies in other countries and I went to see other companies. In the end, I got the contract from the Paris Opera Ballet, but I was happy that I learned about other possibilities, too.”
Six months later Pina Bausch came to the Opera to work on her famous work The Rite of Spring, and she chose Bouché to perform in her work.
“She came to the company. It was the first time that she left her own company. She chose me to participate and she transformed my world. I had just come out of school and here I was dancing in her work – it was amazing. Pina really connected and cared about the dancers. She cared about who you were, your personality. I try to explain that to my dancers – that I choose them for who they are – not because they are good dancers. There are many good dancers but I look for their inside. She changed my life, my point of view. Later we worked together again.”
is both very emotional and visually exquisite, offering some unforgettable imagery executed beautifully by the skillful dancers. But the political message of the dance is unescapable.
Bouché’s idea for Fireflies was inspired by Survival of the Fireflies - Seeking Out the Minor Lights of Friendship in a Time of Fascism, a book written by the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman. The dance is also a poetic gesture to the figure of Pier Paolo Pasolini, an Italian film director, poet, writer and intellectual.
“I feel close to Pasolini in many different ways. He was a total artist – a poet, a film director, a critic and a revolutionary – also in his private life. He lived in different times; to be a homosexual at that time was difficult. I feel close to him. I don’t agree with all his ideas; in the end of his life he was pessimist and reactionary. But I understand because he suffered so much. Huberman, in his book Survival of the Fireflies, criticized the pessimist view of Pasolini. In his article, Huberman uses the image of fireflies as a metaphor for the small people, but it is not only a metaphor. In reality, the fireflies are really disappearing from the face of the earth. There are fewer and fewer in the world. For Huberman, it is an image – the light. In today’s world their gentle light is not seen – the strong light now is the light of the power – not the light of redemption.”
Bouche says that his work is not optimistic or pessimistic.
“I believe, like Huberman, that we have to be on the side of life. There is life and we have to be on its side. The spectrum of death is domination and power, but we have to be more conscientious. Otherwise we will all die. We have to look for the fireflies – they are everywhere.”
Huberman wrote a poem about the refugees in Europe and just before the performance, three people dressed in black walk among the audience reciting what he wrote. Bouche says that this performance will also precede the “Dance in Tel Aviv” next week.
It is going to be interesting.
October 26 at 10 p.m. (A talk with the artists will be held after the performance) and October 27 at 9 p.m. at the Suzanne Dellal Center, Tel Aviv.