"To break the silence and make the audience feel" - an interview with Marion Alzieu and Michael Avron

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Already three weeks two amazing artists – dancer, choreographer - Marion Alzieu and musician, composer – Michael Avron are having a residency at Derida Dance Center. On October 17th at 19:00  they will present their duet on stage - work in progress.
Marion and Michael were so kind to share some experience and slight flight of thoughts about the upcoming piece and their work together.
Marion 4
IL:  What is important for you as an artist while you are in/ doing the creative process in a foreign country?
MA: For me, the most important is the time - to have time to feel creative, to think about some ideas and to try it. And to be here in a foreign country is better for me, because you have plenty of time. I mean - you don’t have daily obligations that you have in your own country. You are here to work and, so you can work, think about it all day, for example. For me that is the most important.
Another important aspect is to see the reaction of new audience. It’s very good to see how this unknown audience feels about your work.

IL: So, about you’re your upcoming piece, what inspired you? 
MA: The new piece is a duet with a musician. Some time ago I saw the concert at Paris. It was a band from Canada, around 5 to 6 musicians on stage. And there were a lot of instruments, wires everywhere… And I liked this image and I found myself interested to make the piece between performance and concert, to make music as important as dance. This image brought me the idea to talk about the link, the link in general.  Not just about the link what we have nowadays with all technologies, internet. I want to talk about the difference between having the link in relation to all over the world, but in the same time - you don’t have concrete link or concrete wire what you can take or see. It’s also about concrete and abstract relations. What are abstract relations and what is concrete. So the inspiration was really, I want to put music as important as dance. I don’t know if it will work out but I want the audience to raise questions– is it a concert or performance? It is important for me, because the audience at a concert is not the same as at a performance, it’s not the same reaction. The audience at a concert is for me like concrete relations -  we feel music and we are more allowed or more free to show our feelings. But in dance performance audience is quieter and for me it is more abstract relations. Audience maybe is not allowed to show their feelings, is more polite, it’s also more in the head, hiding. I really want to break this silence.

Marion Alzieu 2

IL: So you want that audience to hesitate – was it a concert or a dance performance?
MA: Yes, yes. And maybe not after, but during the performance. Because… I am very curious, if they presume to react as in concert or not.

IL: Probably it also depends in which country and venue you are performing. The culture differences could also affect the result.
MA: I know that the audience’s reaction really depends on lots of things. I really want to have no line between me and them. I want to bring together – the dancer and the audience.

IL: What gives you the greatest feeling of achievement in your job?
MA: There are two moments. One is when you show your piece and receive the reaction of the audience. Even if it is a bad reaction, doesn’t matter. When people react on something that you have made, it’ already something. To see the reaction for me is like a gift. Because it’s not something empty.  I did something and people react to it.
And another moment - when in studio, the piece starts to be a piece. And it’s not just some ideas, something that you don’t know what it is. It’s starts to be a real piece; you feel some connection between different parts of the piece. I feel something in my body and I already feel that I want to tell it, I want to show it. I really like this feeling.  It motivates me to carry on and keep working on it.

IL: You mentioned (I also read in your website) that your previous piece (‘’this is not a white woman’’) was about the identity. Has the creation of dance and its performance brought a new understanding of identity or has it changed the way you think of the concept of “identity” itself?
MA: It was very personal piece, because I am talking to my personal identity - what I am with all my life. So, now when I perform it, think or talk about it – yes, it changed something in me. Not just in my life but also in my work. The trust in dance, in my work. It’s also changed my comfort position on stage. For me it’s very important piece. It is my first solo. And every time I perform it, the subject of the piece touches me. Because it’s like to remember all my life, re – live it again.

IL: Also here in Derida Dance Center, you did your first workshop: two hours per day during one week, quite short period of time. How did you find common language with the dancers?
MA: As you already mentioned – it was my first workshop during one week.  And to be easy for me, I gave them some part from my repertoire - from my previous piece, from the solo. After that I just play together with them and rebuilt it – the choreography, the movements. I wanted to see each of them in their own preposition. So, they learn a lot of movements and after we rebuilt it. And I also wanted to bring them the opportunity to feel the live music. So, maybe it was a lot for them during one week, but it is an experience. Probably not as deep, but more as an exchange of thoughts.

Compagnie ma 4

IL: How would you describe it? What kind of experience you gained/ your conclusions?
MA: For me it was interesting to see other people in my own movements. And it was very interesting to explain every movement and to find the way and image to explain it. It challenged me, I had to be very precise on each movement and the way to perform it. Also to explain my work relation to music was interesting for me, to explain why I work with a lot with music, live music, to see their reaction. It was also probation for me - yes I am able to explain my work and my movement! (laughing). But for me it was too short. I had a feeling I want to work more, go deeper on each explanation, experience, movement.
But also to have a presentation on the end of the week, it was like the aim for each of us. It was nice to have an audience. So it’s also a good opportunity to concentrate on work during the week, to be much more focused.
And also to work with live music during the workshops was very nice – like additional value.

IL: Michael, what it’s like to work with a choreographer and dance? What inspires you in that?
Mi: Well, Marion is the first chorographer I work with.  I used to work with bands. It’s the first time for me to see how music can work with movement. Before, I used to see music as something to make people dance. You know, you are coming to the stage and you want to see people happy, willing to hear what you are making and you want to see them dance because of your music -  you want your music to make them dance. But watching the choreography is more like you putting music close to the movement. You see the movement and you want to put sound around it. Marion’s vision of the music relation to dance allowed me to have a real link between the dance and music. Like, it was just one identity, one thing. (showing the hooking fingers and laughing).
So, you know, while I am working, I am sitting in the back, watching Marion doing her thing and trying to see what it gives me, what kind of sounds it gives in my head. Then I take my guitar, I try to put in my music. Sometimes you see that she is going more violently and you do something very violent, but sometimes it’s reminds you something soft, so you want to do something soft on the movement.
I think there is a lot of different relationships between music and dance – it’s not the same in the classical dance, as in contemporary dance, or as in night clubs or on stages - when you want to make people dance.  It’s not the same relation. In the contemporary dance for me it’s really like we are twining around. I am twining around her with my music and she is twining around me. We are meeting at some point or we are getting far away from each other. We try to take the feeling out of this relation – sometimes it’s sadness, sometime it is happiness, sometimes we don’t understand each other, for me it’s really a kind of relation.

Michael Avron

IL: So, basically you are more like observing Marion’s movements and then you try to find the sound which reminds you?
MI: Sometimes. We worked on three creations and each time we had different approach. The first one - she told me what she want to do in her dance, what kind of music she wants to hear and I try to make my music like she told me. So it was quite difficult, because she at that time was in Africa, working on my music and I was in France working on the music. And sometimes she had to take what I send her and put her movements . Even if it wasn’t exactly what she wanted but she needed to deal with it because it was the music I sent to her. Sometimes it was like that.
Second time we were working on a piece – This is not a white woman - I did the music and she,  I think, was inspired by the music and did  the choreography around the music. That’s what I thought -we created this piece.
And this one is really a duet. We are trying to have the same amount of work - music and movement. Sometimes I give the music and she makes things around, sometimes she gives a dance and I make music around.  I also try to work in relation to...  you know,…  on the stage you need an attitude that, yeah,  you are the best guitar player in the world!  People want to see that, they don’t want to see you sad, crying or shy,  they want a show. Even if you are not like this in real life. And sometimes in this piece I have to be like that, because it’s what we decided to do.  We want to make something between performance and concert. So in this piece we have all this kind of relationship – sometime it’s me just Michael, guitar player, sometime I am just someone, working with my friend on project, sometimes  I am a new performer and  I have to show my skills. So I think I will try to show all of these aspects of relationship between dance and music.

IL: How has your musician’s perspective changed since working with dance?
Mi: Yeah, really, it’s really not the same thing. And I really like this way. I used to work with musicians for a long time - about 15 year and I am only working with Marion for three years. It’s a different way to see music, sometimes I find it more creative, you have more freedom. And also another important thing, it is more about economics related to commercial – when you do music as a guitar player and you want to live with it, want to afford the flat, you want to eat every day, you have to think about the commercial part, to earn the money. You can’t just take a time and do research like in the 70th, trying and making crazy sounds, making 20 minutes track - it won’t  work, it  just won’t work.  No one will listen to your music. Unfortunately, music business nowadays is like that. And I discovered that in contemporary dance today you can make around 50 minutes long pieces show in which you can put music for 40 minutes with sounds, with the strange sounds. Just take this sound and make people feel!  Not just make them dance. Nowadays music business, in general, just want to make more people enjoy: ‘’I am happy, happy’’, you know, this kind of music..  all day and … in the end of the day your brain is a little bit washed by this music (laughing). And… yeah, but you know because this music makes them smile. You won’t make people uncomfortable by your music, because no one will buy music if it makes them uncomfortable, maybe sad…  but most of time – they are looking for music which gives strength. And composing for contemporary dance I can presume to make audience feel unconformable, even if they want to leave the room… want to take feelings out of the audience. And that’s what I really like when we work on this piece. Sometimes we felt what we want the audience to feel. And this is really what I would like to do with this kind of music. So now, for the moment, I think working with a dancer, a choreographer is another way to see the music.

IL: Could you describe little more, how do you relate music and dance? How do these two communicate?
Mi: Music is a vibration in the air and dance - is about space, moving in the space. Sometimes I see music as a wave in the air. I can see Marion dancing and my music is almost like waves around her. It’s like she is taking some of my notes and bringing them to another place by movement. So, all is about movement in space. You know, to see music you have to hear the musician, to see dance you have to see the dancer making the movement. But the music is all around you… and my feeling sometimes is that she can take my music by vibration from the guitar and make movements, sometimes she wants to do it and sometimes she has no choice, music makes to do it can be as obligation, but sometimes it gives more space and I have no freedom and I have to follow. I think we have this kind of relationship. It is human relation – we work together 3 years, having fun, laughing together, we built a real human relationship and that’s why I think it is working also in the relationship between dance and music. Because the thing we have in our human relationship can be shown in our artistic creations, too - attitude, discussions, disagreements, etc. I think, music and dance relationship is parallel to our friendship.  We have good vision where we want to go and how we see the fact of making the art together.

The interview did Ina Locmele  - an intern in art management at Derida Dance Center