Yannick Dufour
UBU Scènes d’Europe/European Stages (Paris, France)
May 2001


Raising the question of translation in dance has little meaning it would seem. In dance it is more often a question of interpretation and notation. The Quatuor Albrecht Knust, which brings together contemporary young choreographers (Boris Charmatz, Emmanuelle Huynh, Cecile Proust), deciphers and transmits major Works from the 20th century using Rudolf Laban's method of notation. This written method is a translation of movements and spaces, a conversation of the choreographic gesture. It is a written record for memory.

The preservation of a memory of dance is also Lynda Gaudreau's preoccupation. The Quebecois choreographer was at the Théâtre Les Abbesses in Paris in October and November 2000 presenting two works: DOCUMENT 1 and Still Life. The first initiates a series devoted to the conservation and the confrontation of choreographic gestures. Her written dance, which she doesn't write, meets with that of other choreographers (Jérôme Bel, Daniel Larrieu, Meg Stuart), performers (Benoît Lachambre), visual artists and musicians. Here the notion of translation is taken literally: how is transmission possible without it?

UBU: From what point of view do you approach translation in dance?

LYNDA GAUDREAU: I have never specifically worked on translation. It was when developing DOCUMENT 1 and DOCUMENT 2 for the Encyclopœdia project that I came to ask myself the question of translation. I wanted to establish a link with another language, an image, in this case the plates of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie, and to translate it into movement. Translation is a relationship to time and space. How can I decrypt a written text or an image, how is my nervous system going to register this information and how much time will that take for me to make sense of it ? I use this experience for movement. One can consider that in the past, choreographers sought to interpret and translate music. This idea of interpretation with language poses itself in the same way. I don't have the impression that translation from a language passes through exactness. There is an attempt to get as close as possible to something but it is never exactly the same reality.

How do you go about translating and transmitting a work like the encyclopedia?

Using images and translating them into movements is more interesting than saying I use images and I mime this image. Translation suggests a certain abstraction. I take one thing as my starting point and I abstract a certain meaning to make something in another language. In DOCUMENT 1, I take the plate from the Encyclopédie on sculpting tools. I use the graphic structure of the image and I instill it into the dancer's body. The image takes up an ''x'' proportion in a sequence and the dancers use this same proportion in their bodies (in internal physical space and also in the space where there bodies are situated).

Did you create a specific vocabulary during this work?

Even if my dance seems very ''written'', in my case it would not be appropriate to speak of phrase of movement. I focus on each unit of movement and I only choreograph one movement at a time. I make series of 100 movements. Each unit is completely different from any other. In relationship to language, there is something similar, an alphabet. However in dance it is renewed each time. My letter A doesn't exist, I have lots of letter A's. One could probably say that this is an idiosyncrasy. One can see that there are movements which come back all the time with a certain rhythm. The importance of rhythm can be found in several types of writing, that of the writer, the composer or the painter. If I had to do a translation of my choreographic work into words, I would be closer to concrete poetry.

Translating therefore allows to transmit an interpretation. What do you wish to transmit?

For me, language is more in contract between things. I have never pretended to have something to say. What interests me is how to interpret a language which is abstract when it comes down to it. The most difficult thing is to find the best means of transmission, so to speak, ''my'' language. To do things in such a way that the rhythm and dynamics of movement are seized and conserved by the dancers. I don't write the choreography of my shows on paper. Choreographic work does not always require me to take a pen to translate movement, it would be fastidious. One could with Laban's system, for example. With video today one can go about it differently, even if it is just a visual substitute. In doing so, one realizes that the body alone holds memory.

What is the finality of the Encyclopœdia project?

The idea of this project came from my passion for the world of documentation. Before starting DOCUMENT 1, I had been working for three years on themes linked to the body and movement. I didn't want to change the subject, I wanted to go further, into something much more diversified, giving myself the chance to work with other artists, whether directly or not. I work in my own little corner in Montreal, so there are plenty of people in the world working on similar subjects. There is a way of having a sort of intellectual and human correspondence which becomes an artistic correspondence. This exchange is also motivated by the will to conserve which currently exists in contemporary dance.

The core of the project is live performance. I also want to integrate installations by photographers, architects and painters who are interested in movement. The idea of translation is also present in this simple desire to make a parallel between all of these media. How they translate the idea of mass, matter and movement. How each one negotiates with these questions. The experimental phase of Encyclopœdia will continue until DOCUMENT 4. If that becomes a lifelong project there could be as many as 25. For the moment I don't know. Even though that's all I'm doing.

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