A rare, complete darkness. Curtain slides discreetly. Soothing smell of water. Barely noticeable is the human breathing in the Salle Vilar of Théâtre National de Bretagne (TNB). The darkness seems to last, as long as the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Finally, in the middle of the darkness appeared a dim spotlight which gently brightened the stage: a white island, water and three groups of creatures.

I have been following the website of Vessel for a while. From a spectator’s point of view, it is absurd to wait so long for a European artist’s creation to tour in Europe. As soon as I learned about TNB’s program, Rennes was added to my list of destinations for dance & travel last season. 

In Saint Seiya, Shaka gives up one sense to enhance the others. Hiding face reminds me of Shaka’s practice: here, dancers hide part of the body to enhance the rest. Apparently this initiative came up quite early in the creative process and became surprisingly prolific. Having Amilios Arapoglou among Japanese dancers makes the “hiding face” even more interesting. The fact of being visually “headless” largely gives away human identity and visualises, to some extent, human equality.

Naturally social and sexually reproducible, bodies “wake up” and detached from each other. With a certain “sense”, they connect and synchronise movements. When they are five in a row, back muscles seem to be possessed by human spirits and start to move like human faces. Remember those trees with faces in animation movies? Or the wood masks for South Asia? Choreography gets magnified with movement in groups, same as Volk in Suspiria. hypnotised, I completely live within this unknown ritual.

A talent like Damien Jalet has more chance emerging in Belgium than other countries. Currently, I am reading Une vague belge by Guy Duplat and artists interpret this Belgian phenomenon in different ways. The book was published fifteen years ago and the wave continues whatever is the explanation behind. Jalet is definitely on this wave and his intuition guides him to this journey till where he is today. Damien tells that he has always been interested in Asian culture especially the Japanese one. Traveling there for over 20 times certainly proves his passion. Like in The Ferryman, the deer helmet makes him capable of traveling among cultures/rituals and bringing messages to human nature. 

In the documentary, when Damien was back to the industrial society, he lost his head. A human suicide? A revenge from the Nature? Like the mountain, birth and death co-exist. When “headless” dancers “find” the vessel, it seems that they want to shape new heads with the potato starch. Body and sculpture meet in this katakuriko. If Dimitris Papaioannou is a stage painter, Damien Jalet is a choreosculptor.

Damien agrees that Les Médusés in 2013 sets the debut of his own works, a dialogue of his choreography with sculptures in the Louvre. If we capture any moment of his works and watch it in a 3D view, it will probably be a ready-to-exhibit sculpture. Kohei Nawa’s eponymous installation in Arario Gallery can confirm this. What if we bring them in the same space one day?

The most precious thing in life is encounter. Vessel traced back to his encounter with Kohei Nawa’s installation Foam in 2013. Les Médusés brought him the opportunity to work with Luca Guadagnino and then Thom Yorke. With Erna Omarsdottir (again), he recently brought dance to Vigeland Museum; Planet [wanderer], the second part of collaboration with Kohei Nawa, revealed.

“Any creation, any dance, any sculpture could be an attempt to enter that place again to pierce the tapestry of the world in order to understand what it looks like behind, a quest to find the lost part somewhere in the unknown.” Damien Jalet will continue his journey, his attempt and his quest.

Applause at TNB Rennes (April, 2019)

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