Pascal Rambert talks about his (micro) history of the world, danced

French director Pascal Rambert talks about his acclaimed exploration of the economy



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Time Out New York: You’ll do a version of (micro) history with them?
Pascal Rambert:
Yes. It’s been almost 15 years now, and some of them are still in the same group. I was rehearsing with them a few months ago. You work with those people, and you don’t know if they’re going to show up. Some of them are clean, but you are not sure. Here in New York, I was really happy to hear that we have a lot of people from the neighborhood around La MaMa. There are also a lot of young people coming from NYU. There are also friends of Nature Theater of Oklahoma. So you have layers of young people, people who are my age, 50 or something like that, and people who are 60 or 70. It’s a range of really different people, and I’m happy with that.

Time Out New York: Is that what you want for this piece? What is the piece about?
Pascal Rambert:
Yes. It’s about economics. I’m a zero in economics. In 2008, I was looking at Le Monde, and I saw a picture of an African-American family in Detroit who had been evicted from their house, and all their furniture was outside on the sidewalk. I was seeing the fridge, the bed, the chairs and this family—overweight and totally poor. It was a clichéd absolute. They had done a subprime, and they couldn’t pay the mortgage, and from that I said, Okay, I will try to understand what is going on. At the same time, in Gennevilliers, I was doing a writing session with the people of the neighborhood. There were 70 people every Tuesday, from September to June, doing a writing session with me. Some were not even able to write; they didn’t know how to write, because they were first-generation immigrants. I said, “It’s not a problem. You just whisper what you want to say to your neighbor, and they will write it for you.” After a while, I was hearing stories and text, and I was just letting the people write and write. Because they were writing about daily-life problems, money things, I decided I needed to make a piece with words in the theater. I needed to shape it a little bit, so I asked a philosopher who was a specialist in economy; I started also with my crew and my performers, and we gathered all the 50 people. Finally, we are 50 every day rehearsing and creating the thing little by little.

Time Out New York: Do people write in the piece?
Pascal Rambert:
Yes, but you can write not just on paper, but with your body. I started to make them move. I’m not a choreographer, and I don’t want to be one even if I do a lot of dance pieces. I’m not Rachid [Ouramdane]. But you can write, not just on paper, but with your body, so I started to make them move. So little by little, the piece was done. It’s a mix of the philosopher who talks to the audience; he has no text. He knows what he has to say, he knows the patterns, but he improvises every night. There are 50 people onstage moving. I tell them they can imagine they are in their New York apartment, literally; they know exactly how to enter. It’s not mime, it’s real movements. So you have 50 people grabbing a thing, washing a dish, and I said, “Don’t do mime—just do the thing normally. Just remember if the coffee is hot, what is the height of your cupboard, your bed.” So they started focusing on that in the space.

Time Out New York: How do you get them to perform in the way you want? 
Pascal Rambert:
I tell them when I was younger, 18, I saw a piece by Pina Bausch and that took me. It was 1980, the one where they are on grass. I saw it three or four times in a row, and it changed my life. I was like, Okay, we can dance like that, we can move like that. So I transformed daily movement into a choreographic object, and they can see that from nothing—because they have no objects and are just in the space, they can make their own movement and build their own work in real time. If I had to really define my work, it’s that I create very precise frames in which the artist inside can be totally free. With Kate and Jim, I said you enter, you put the light on, you put your text on, you start speaking. Especially with Jim; he is my hero. I have seen him since ’91, ’92 and I have always wanted to work with him. This time, it was like, Okay. I’ll do it in New York. I will do it with Jim. I will do it with Kate. [Heavy sigh] But at least we achieved something! From reality to fiction and from fiction to reality, and now it’s okay. We are fine together; everything is okay. I did a piece called The Beginning of Love [Le Début de l’A] that I did at the Comédie-Française, which is totally our story of when we met here in New York. It has been a huge, huge, huge love. There is no comparison. It was something where we were also creating together; she has never been at the head of the company, but she was really my center point in the work. And, by the way, she is an amazing performer.

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