Music and dance without time and space

Music and dance without time and space

Michaela Preiner

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May 2022

TUMULUS - the new work by François Chaignaud and conductor Geoffroy Jourdain unites dance with historical and contemporary music. It tells of the transience of life as well as of the desire to celebrate and enjoy life.

It is a whirring and a buzzing, a humming, a singing and a swinging. It is a celebration and a mourning, a pausing and a running. It is yesterday and today, dream and reality. It is feminine and masculine and everything in between, summer and winter, inside and outside.

All this is TUMULUS – an artistic collaboration between choreographer, dancer and author François Chaignaud and conductor Geoffroy Jourdain. The Vienna Festival 2022 started with this cross-genre project in the Museumsquartier, which poses a special challenge for the ensemble, since the dancers are also singers. The singers are used to using their bodies under extreme conditions in stage productions, for example when they have to sing at dizzying heights or in unusual body positions. In the French production, however, singing and dancing are equally important and equally demanding.

The stage is dominated by a tumulus, a burial mound with two small entrances in the centre. (Stage Matthieu Lorry Dupuy) This mound architecture is conquered now and then with verve and on the run, but also thoughtfully in ceremonial lockstep. From it, people slide down with relish, as children do when they roll off slopes in the open air. But the bodies also roll off the hill as if they were lifeless, only to land motionless on the stage floor.

The scenes are not only differentiated by different choreographies and different pieces of music. Except for Claude Vivier’s “Music for the End” from 1971, Geoffroy Jourdain uses Renaissance music by Jean Richafort and William Byrd, as well as a Dies Irae by Antonio Lotti and music by Josquin Desprez, both cleverly adapted by Jourdain for the dance piece. The selected sacred music in itself creates a meditative underlying tone, but this reaches a sensual climax with Claude Vivier. In his piece, the ensemble sits facing the audience in a row along the front edge of the stage. Gradually, a chorus of delicate voices with repetitive text develops. The microtonality used and the repetitive text passages evoke a floating state of experience. There is a feeling of a loss of time, a swinging between yesterday, today and an unknown tomorrow. The rhythmic accompaniment is provided by stamping and clapping, by snapping fingers or clicking tongues, but also by strongly audible breathing noises. In this way, the need for orchestral accompaniment never arises. What is produced live on stage by the ensemble contains everything it needs for a satisfying musical experience.

The sense that the action cannot be placed in any particular time, indeed has a timeless validity, is also supported by the costumes. Romain Brau uses current fashions such as quilted coats and capes as well as simply draped, archaic-looking tops or leg laces. A procession parading over the hill is characterised by original headdresses and the poses shown oscillate between Asian temple dancers, Egyptian representations of funeral rites as known from the pyramids and a contemporary dance movement repertoire. The last performance, in which the upper bodies are presented bare, makes the vulnerability of the people tangible. Being at the mercy of one’s surroundings, but also one’s fate, which always ends lethally, evokes feelings of vulnerability and empathy.

The concept of Tumulus creates a constant balancing between the times, which runs through the music, the dance and also the set. It gives the production its own charm and character. Not to mention the beautiful voices, which are used in a finely tuned voicing and are a concert experience in themselves.

During the applause, the Viennese audience was allowed to applaud all the performers and, through the appearance of François Chaignaud, also got a small impression of how much his personality resonates in Tumulus. His impressive, imaginary hat-waving during his bow – a formerly courtly gesture of obeisance – seemed like the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle, crowning what had gone before in intensive collaborative work.

Dancing and singing on stage were: Simon Bailly, Mario Barrantes, Florence Gengoul, Myriam Jarmache, Evann Loget-Raymond, Marie Picaut, Alan Picol, Antoine Roux-Briffaud, Vivien Simon, Maryfé Singy, Ryan Veillet, Aure Wachter, Daniel Wendler.

The text was translated automatically with


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