La Tohu: What made you think of creating a show with such a structure?
Yoann Bourgeois: The idea came from my circus practice. In all my disciplines (juggling, aerobatics, acrobatics), I always sought to balance the forces. In fact, what’s interesting to me about the circus is the relationship with physical forces. The platform allowed the amplification of basic physical phenomena: centrifugal forces, gravity, etc., and made them perceptible.
La Tohu: Tell us about the creative process.
Yoann Bourgeois: The show was created from a simple directive: trying to stay up. It becomes very concrete for the artists when the platform twists from horizontal to vertical, or when it starts to turn very fast. Succeeding at standing up requires individual and collective structures. This very tangible aspect generates a form of fiction, and its dramatic quality comes from the fact that everything is carefully choreographed. It transpires an existential issue as well. How humankind succeeds at standing tall when we know it won’t hold forever… We feel that something inside us keeps falling down. Still, I believe that, at times, an interruption is possible.
La Tohu: What type of discipline did you want from the performers for this type of show?
Yoann Bourgeois: Undisciplined artists, in every sense (he laughs). Artists able to perform every discipline in the show. An ability to play which exceeds boundaries is very important to me. One thing even more important is that I don’t work with people for what they can do. I work with people who move me, which is a very strong creative energy.
La Tohu: How does this show fit in your career?
Yoann Bourgeois: Some people see their work become more complex as they progress through their career. My approach is the opposite. I tend to strip in down and keep the essential. I think that the very simple actions bring more polysemy. Jumping, falling, standing generate more empathy. Everybody knows how falling backwards feels like, whereas a back somersault is a feat only a few people can accomplish… The show, commissioned at the time for the Lyon Dance Biennale, is a clear benchmark in my research, a culmination of my innermost questionings.
La Tohu: To what do you attribute the success of the show since its beginning?
Yoann Bourgeois: I think it can be attributed to the fact that it counterbalances the other usual uses of the circus, trapped in some kind of heroism. Usually, people come to see what they cannot do. I let people see weakness rather than strength. The precariousness, connection with death, emptiness is ever-present. All the situations remain and are never resolved. The show doesn’t have a single meaning, but a proliferation of meanings… We are currently going through a kind of civilization mutation, a change which has regularly marked history of humankind. We find ourselves at an overturning moment. What we believe to be is not necessarily stable. And the structure I have created reflects this instability.
La Tohu: How do you perceive the Québec circus?
Yoann Bourgeois: I came to New York with the previous show, L’Art de la fugue, but it’s my first visit to Canada. I’ve heard so much about Montréal, Québec circus, and TOHU within the French circus community. I will have the pleasure of discovering all of it!
Interview reported and edited by Anne-Marie Desbiens