By B. Simm
CALGARY — Montreal choreographer, Frédérick Gravel, enlists six dancers and a live band that take the stage in an fearless, avant-garde, dance performance centered around a mock-rock concert that unravels our notion of pop culture, its aspirations and aesthetics. Speaking to Gravel from Paris, he empties his head about the concept and process involved with Usually Beauty Fails, which will play at Theatre Junction GRAND starting next week.
BeatRoute: Fusion between high-end art and pop-culture. Is there a tension between the two or do they dovetail together?
Frédérick Gravel: The tension is maybe between two visions. In pop the vision is pushed by the fact that sometimes there’s an industry surrounding it. Where in contemporary art there’s not really an industry. The presentation is very different, but the goal is quite similar. The way it’s produced effect the way it’s done. I envied pop a bit because it’s everywhere, and in everybody’s life. It makes culture a little more clearly than contemporary art can make it. At the same time, I don’t envy the rest of it. The money is talking really loud and sometimes you can’t hear everything else.
BR: What type of music do you bring into Usually Beauty Fails?
FG: It’s mainly original live music done by friend Stephane Boucher, who’s done the music for the majority of my last shows. It’s kind of like an electro-rock concert. We like playing with rock or pop codes. But the songs, the lyrics are really deconstructive weird poetry; it’s kind of hilarious sometimes. But we don’t pay that much attention to the words, because it’s a dance show and lots of things going on.
BR: There’s a bit of theatre, a bit of performance art, a bit of dance and music, an amalgamation of a whole bunch of art forms. Is there a narrative, a story line involved?
FG: Not really a narrative, it’s more like a concert with songs. And I’m the emcee who talks between the numbers. This performance is a little more constructed. There’s two parts: the concert, about two thirds of the show; and a situation at the end that’s more like dance theatre, where I don’t talk.
BR: The dance component. There’s a lot of withering, vibrating, a lot of erratic movement.
FG: Yeah, it’s not really fluid. Hmmm… I’m trying to make a dance that’s very complex, at the same time easy to get. I want it deeper and complex, but not just complicated. Everyone is very busy, they’re driven charged, loaded! Maybe that has some contradictions, which for me is a little more close to what humans are like. When everything is fluid and dancers are doing the same thing at the same time, I don’t find it that close to reality. I like to make poetry of reality.
BR: How does it all come together? Is there a lot of improvisation?
FG: Half the show is improved. Although the music a little less improved, a little more controlled. We follow the lines a bit more with the music, there’s a lot of information. We know the music is in (the key of) E and that we’re following the beat on the sampler.
BR: Does the dance then follow the music?
FG: Nobody is really following the other one. The dance cannot win, the music cannot win. It has to be shared stage. At the same time the music is strong, it’s loud. I don’t like it when the music is low and soft. It has to be really affirmative. So we know that the music will not lose, but it has to make some space for the dance. We need to make some space for both approaches.
BR: Finally, Usually Beauty Fails. What’s hanging in that the title?
FG: The show is a big question about beauty. Beauty is a social construction. As a society we’re constructing something then running after it. Even if I realize that, I’m still running after it, searching for it and find that usually beauty fails, I’m still searching for it.
Usually Beauty Fails plays at Theatre Junction GRAND from Wed., April 15 to Sat., April 18.AB, Alberta, dance, Frédérick Gravel, Theatre Junction GRAND, Usually Beauty Fails