Christy Bolingbroke on Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas

A solo for two – a dancer and a 600 kg sculpture by Toni Grand – Les Disparates (1994) is a choreographic collaboration between Dmitri Chamblas and Boris Charmatz.  Translated as “The Disparate” or two things so unequal or unlike the other, Chamblas and Charmatz contextualize movement against something seemingly fixed or unable to move while ironically, the dancer (Charmatz) not only moves through the frame, but also inserts himself in various locations.

The duo’s first work, À Bras-Le-Corps (1993) or “Take the Whole Body / With the Whole Body”, was created as an intimate, live performance for audiences situated in a tight square while the two men engaged in a confrontational and extremely physical duet in the middle, often times just missing the viewers in such near proximity.  Les Disparates takes a similar approach in an alternate medium, introducing a close look at dance while playing with the traditional buffer between the stage and audience.  In each work, the goal is to invent a frame for the dance to be seen.  Dance is inserted into the everyday – into reality – while the choice of camera angles and shots brings the audience closer to (or even further from) the performer than in a proscenium setting.  Compared to a live stage performance, the medium of film allows for multiple viewing angles of the same scene, quick jump cuts/editing, and a variety of locales.

Both Chamblas and Charmatz were classically trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School and influenced by the works and methods of American dance legend Martha Graham and post-modernists like Merce Cunningham, Alwin Nikolais, and Steve Paxton.   They co-founded the Association Edna in 1992 to develop projects and provide the frame for ideas within which to see or experience dance.  Chamblas and Charmatz continue to embrace the post-modern spirit of experimentation and improvisation, but maintain an extremely athletic dance vocabulary married with pedestrian gestures.  Whether it is variable time, space, or perspective, Chamblas and Charmatz would most likely agree with Les Disparates’ director comments that the work not only provides a new framework to see dance, but also a new lens for perceiving film:

Cinema allows the integration of dance into reality, the use of its various forms of expression as the peculiar codes of an ordinary story.  Talking cinema has been around a long time.  Les Disparates is a sound film, but without words pronounced. Without dialogue, cinema often retains traces of theatrical vocabulary…the force of the image, the power of the choice of frame, movement and the multiplied points of view produce meaning.  The choreography of Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas can be a contemporary equivalent of this way of investing the image…It is an abstraction of cinematographic narrative.

– César Vayssié
Les Disparates director