‘Twerk’ it out

Many dance genres combine in Chaignaud and Begnolea’s piece.

‘Twerk’ (photo credit: EMILE ZEIZIG)
(photo credit: EMILE ZEIZIG)
If asked to choose two choreographers to go out on the town with, hands down it would be Francois Chaignaud and Cecilia Begnolea. The reason is that there seems to be no divide between the unruly charisma of their performances and their personal ability to tear a dance floor to smithereens. Time and again, Chaignaud and Begnolea have demonstrated a rare ability to make performance events feel like parties, sweeping the audience away into a devilish world of sensuality and spectacle.
On Saturday night, Chaignaud and Begnolea will present their 2012 tour de force, Altered Natives’ Say Yes to Another Excess – TWERK, as part of the Israel Festival.
TWERK explores the meeting of many different dance genres, many of which are taken from the rough and tumble dance floors of London and New York’s nightclubs. The piece is performed by five dancers – Chaignaud, Begnolea, Elisa Yvelin, Ana Pi and Alex Mugler.
“I studied in a conservatory, so I was more locked up in dorms. I started going out quite late compared to other teenagers,” explains Chaignaud. “This piece is interesting to me because it combines very different dance experiences of the five of us. For Cecilia and Alex, their dance practice grew through clubs; but Ana and I grew through academies and conservatories.
Born and raised in France, Chaignaud exhibited talent in singing and dancing from a young age. As such, he found himself in intensive classical training early on, the products of which are visible on his frame to this day. On stage, Chaignaud is capable of nearly anything. One moment he is executing a ballet phrase seemingly plucked from the halls of Lincoln Center, the next he is singing an aria, and the next gyrating on the floor. His flowing blond curls and muscular physique present a type of contradiction: He is at once dainty and powerful, demure and unbridled.
Begnolea, with whom Chaignaud has collaborated since 2005 on various projects, is equally intriguing. Born and raised in Argentina, Begnolea’s passions landed her in Paris, where she lives and works today. Similar to Chaignaud, she is a performer with boundless talents and imagination.
Together, the two have created works such as Sylphides, Castor et Pollux and Danses Libres.
Each piece delved into a different aspect of dance or performance history, from ballet classics to Francois Malkovsky’s free spirited rituals. TWERK continues this line of research by looking at dance that occurs outside of the studio and giving it a different context on stage.
“For this piece, we took a very long time. The first many weeks we were teaching each other. Alex comes from the voguing scene in New York and Elisa studied in P.A.R.T.S., so she has very specific knowledge in modern dance. Ana was into religious dances. And then Cecilia and I brought our own practices. We were taking a lot of classes, house dance and hip hop. We were in an urban dance camp in Marrakesh for a week. We were a lot in clubs in London and New York to observe and practice in the clubs. When we get back in the studio, we did a long-term research; we went in a lot of directions. We rehearsed a lot outdoors in New York. We were constantly trying to change the circumstance of the work.”
The five performers are joined on stage by DJ Elijah and DJ Skilliam, who mix different soundtracks for each show live.
“I love the music,” says Chaignaud. “Cecilia met those two DJs from the grind scene. There is this great energizing inspiring that the music is not set.”
But, to be clear, TWERK does not aim to bring nightlife to the concert arena.
“We don’t reproduce a club. It’s a collision of different dance histories, of other forms of dance in dialogue. TWERK is about embracing all this dance history that all of us carry, finding the structure that allows all this diversity to exist without reducing any of the references to just a quotation or stereotype. The challenge was to find how to reference the different histories as a way to empower us and give more freedom and not make us crash,” says Chaignaud.
‘TWERK’ will be performed at Beit Shmuel tomorrow (Saturday) at 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.israel-festival.org.il.