Doubt and Certitude
Workshop Philippe Priasso (1979)
Dancers in training at CNDC Angers
Between 1978 and 1981, sixty young French dancers benefited from the teaching at the Centre national de danse contemporaine (CNDC) d'Angers, which was at the time directed by the American choreographer Alwin Nikolais. The repertoire still features his phantasmagorical works, for which this craftsman and magician created not just the choreography, but also the lighting, soundtrack and scenery. However, in the light of the conceptual revolution set in motion by Cage and Cunningham, dance critics would play down the influence of Nikolais' aesthetic style.
In Angers, however, Alwin Nikolais and his assistants devoted themselves to their teaching above all other things. Their very elaborate teaching method principally used the improvisation and self-observation, both conceptual and tangible, of principles of gesture style. At the end of each week, the trainees would put together the results of their research. This is where Philippe Priasso comes in, who generously illustrates the concept of decentralisation of the body, according to which the body does not just have one single centre of gravity – the dancer can choose at any time to shift his/her centre of movement to any part of the body. This fundamental concept has not only a purely physical resonance, but also a philosophical one.
Selected excerpt :
enregistré le 23 mai 1979 au Théâtre municipal d'Angers
danseur – stagiaire du CNDC d'Angers Philippe Priasso
production CNDC Angers
Alwin Nikolaïs was born in 1910 in Southington, Connecticut. He studied piano at an early age and began his performing career as an organist accompanying silent films. As a young artist he gained skills in scenic design, acting, puppetry and music composition. It was after attending a performance by the illustrious German dancer Mary Wigman that he was inspired to study dance. He received his early dance training at Bennington College from the great figures of the modern dance world: Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Louis Horst, and others. In 1940, in collaboration with Truda Kaschmann, his first modern dance teacher Mr. Nikolais received a commission to create « Eight Column Line », his first ballet. In 1948, Mr. Nikolais was appointed director of the Henry Street Playhouse, where he formed the Playhouse Dance Company, later renamed and known as the Nikolais Dance Theatre. It was at Henry Street that Mr. Nikolais began to develop his own world of abstract dance theatre, portraying man as part of a total environment. His unique choreographic works placed him in a realm previously untouched by other choreographers. Mr. Nikolais redefined dance, as “the art of motion which, left on its own merits, becomes the message as well as the medium.“
While developing his choreography, Mr. Nikolais' lifelong interest in music led him to create his own scores. Choreographer, composer, scenic and costume designer, has blended his many talents into a single aesthetic force. In a career that has spanned five decades, he has left his imprint on every theatrical medium, from Broadway to television. Whenever there is something new, his hand is evident. His lighting wonders, his sound scores, his choreography, and his costumes have influenced the contemporary stage and a generation of choreographers. Mr. Nikolais is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Nikolais Dance Theater and the genius responsible for dozens of visual masterpieces. As a uniquely original exponent of American contemporary dance he toured throughout Europe and subsequent tours to South America and the Far East. Mr. Nikolais is renowned as a master teacher, and his pedagogy is taught in schools and universities throughout the world. He passed away May 8, 1993 and is buried in Pere La Chaisse cemetery in Paris.
Source: Nikolais/Louis Foundation for dance Inc.
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