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Façade, un divertissement

Façade, un divertissement

Façade, un divertissement

In June 1993, Régine Chopinot created “Façade, un divertissement” based on the English musical poem by Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) and the composer Sir William Walton (1902-1983). Written in 1922 as an experimental, entertaining exercise in writing, this work brings together the rhythm of the words, the onomatopoeias and the music, the music of the dances danced by high society (waltz, foxtrot, polka, hornpipe, tango…) with which E. Sitwell grew up. Thus influenced by jazz, romantic music, the tango and even Stravinsky, the universe of “Façade” is not as abstract as it appears on the surface, containing tangible memories and in particular of the family residence of Renishaw Hall, the Sitwells' summer residence: enchanted gardens, servants, exotic images, paradises lost, misappropriated myths and comical liaisons….

This poem of the musical avant-garde of the 1920s, recited for the first time by Edith Sitwell behind a curtain using a megaphone, is, for Régine Chopinot, the opportunity to conceive “a succession of farcical or nostalgic dances” inspired by the dances of high society. She enlisted the advice of the specialist Christian Dubar, who trained the company's dancers in ballroom dance. The audiences in La Rochelle were even invited to balls hosted by this eminent professor.

Retaining the musical oeuvre in its entirety to accompany her choreography, R. Chopinot asked Cyril de Turckheim to take on the live musical direction with musicians of the same age as the poem's authors at the time, i.e. rather young. For “Façade”, the original work, augmented by “Façade 2”, the work reinterpreted in 1950, as well as its duplicates, the choreographer imagines “a visual score, which details the various musical lines, those of the flute, the saxophone, the trumpet, the cello and the voice”: “Therefore, each dancer follows a particular instrument. The spectator can visualise the music to a certain extent.”[1]

The successive tableaux which make up the choreography use the titles of the pieces and are detailed as such in the communication documents which accompany the work:



Fanfare Flourish Hornpipe

Came the Great Popinjay

En Famille


Mariner Man March Long Steel Glass Madame Mouse Trots Through Gilded Tellises The Octogenarian Tango-Pasodoble Gardner Janus Catches a Naiad
Lullaby for Jumbo Water Party Black Mrs. Behemoth
Said King Pompey Tarantella A Man from a Far Countree DOUBLONS By the Lake En Famille Country Dance Tango Pasodoble Polka Lullaby for Jumbo

Four in the Morning

A Man from a Far Countree Something Lies Beyond the Scene Valse Valse Popular Song Joddeling Song Four in the Morning Scotch Rhapsody By the Lake Popular Song


Fox-trot : ‘Old Sir Faulk' Said King Pompey Sir Beelzebub

Régine Chopinot entrusted the work's set design to the painter Jean Le Gac, who devised a large curtain – perhaps to evoke the performance of E. Sitwell? – raised in the middle to allow the projection of portraits, trompe-l'oeil… etc. Jean Paul Gaultier's costumes were back on stage in the choreographer's new venture, adding to the quality of presence the dancer conveyed, free of external trappings which could interfere with her performance. Thus, always playing the eccentricity card, the multi-coloured and close-fitting jumpsuits cover the dancers from head to foot, reinforcing the unity of the body while accentuating the abstract side of work, following the example of E. Sitwell's performance.

[1] R. Chopinot, in a discussion with S. Dupuis and D. Simonnet, “Je danse donc je vis”, L'Express, 11 November, 1993

Programme extract

““Façade” was written by Edith Sitwell and William Walton “to amuse themselves”. Based on a writing experiment which reproduced a waltz or foxtrot using only the rhythm of the words and the onomatopoeias, they had the idea of jointly composing this suite of short pieces, full of colours and sound humour: a succession of farcical and nostalgic dances, in which the music, full of the spirit of William Walton, produces astonishing visions. Edith Sitwell recited this work for the first time in public in 1922, hidden behind a curtain, a device designed to avoid diverting the attention of the listener from these sound images and to amplify their surrealist subject matter. As many small autonomous universes as of poems, but all nourished by the same imagination: enchanted gardens, childhood memories, exotic images, paradises lost, misappropriated myths and comical liaisons… Victoria neighbours Venus, the zebras of Zanzibar, the amorous Spaniards, the cucumber, the satyr, the echo of the past, the pretty girls from the English countryside. This little world moves about, struts, does battle with itself in anachronistic tableaux arranged with a great deal of freedom and a breath-taking virtuosity.

A universe made to measure for Régine Chopinot who multiplies the resonances and echoes of the images by entrusting the show's set design to Jean Le Gac and the costumes to Jean Paul Gaultier, inseparable partner and accomplice.”

(Source: Ballet Atlantique press pack, 1993)

Updating: February 2013

Chopinot, Régine

Régine Chopinot, born in 1952 in Fort-de-l'Eau (today known as Bordj El Kiffan), in Algeria, was attracted to choreographic art from early childhood. After studying classical dance, she discovered contemporary dance with Marie Zighera in 1974. She moved to Lyon where she founded her first company in 1978, the Compagnie du Grèbe, which included dancers, actors and musicians. Here, she created her first choreographies. Three years later, she was awarded second prize in the Concours chorégraphique international de Bagnolet (Bagnolet International Choreographic Contest) for “Halley's Comet” (1981), later known as “Appel d'air”. Her next pieces of work “Délices” (Delights) and “Via”, introduced other media including the cinema to the world of dance. In 1983 with “Délices”, Régine Chopinot began her longstanding partnership with the fashion designer, Jean Paul Gaultier, which would characterize the period, which included works such as “Le Défilé” (The Fashion show) (1985), “K.O.K.” (1988), “ANA” (1990), “Saint Georges” (1991) and “Façade” (1993). In 1986, Régine Chopinot was appointed director of the Centre chorégraphique national de Poitou-Charentes (Poitou-Charentes National Choreography Centre) in La Rochelle (where she succeeded Jacques Garnier and Brigitte Lefèvre's Théâtre du Silence), which went on to become the Ballet Atlantique-Régine Chopinot (BARC), in 1993. Régine Chopinot made a myriad of artistic encounters: from visual artists like Andy Goldsworthy, Jean Le Gac and Jean Michel Bruyère, to musicians such as Tôn-Thât Tiêt and Bernard Lubat.

At the beginning of the 90s, she moved away from – according to her own expression – “ultra-light spaces” in which, at a young age, she had become acknowledged, in particular through her partnership with Jean Paul Gaultier. She then became fascinated with experimenting on confronting contemporary dance with natural elements and rhythms and on testing age-old, complex body sciences and practices, such as yoga. In 1999, as part of “associate artists”, Régine Chopinot invited three figures from the world of contemporary dance to partner with her for three years on her artistic project: Françoise Dupuy, Dominique Dupuy and Sophie Lessard joined the BARC's troupe of permanent dancers and consultants-researchers, as performers, pedagogues and choreographers.

In 2002, she initiated the “triptyque de la Fin des Temps” (Triptych of the End of Time), a long questioning of choreographic writing and creation subsequent to her creation of a voluntary state of crisis of general notions of time, of memory and of construction. “Chair-obscur”, her first chapter, focused on erasing the past, the memory, whilst “WHA” was based on the disappearance of the future. “O.C.C.C.” dealt with the “time that's left”, with what is left to be done, with what can still be done, in that simple, yet essential spot called performance. In 2008, “Cornucopiae”, the last work created within the Institution, concluded the end of a form of performance and opened the doors to another approach to sensorial perception.

Concurrently to her choreographic work, Régine Chopinot worked, as a performer, with other artists that she was close to: Alain Buffard (“Wall dancin' - Wall fuckin'”, 2003; “Mauvais Genre”, 2004), Steven Cohen (“I wouldn't be seen dead in that!”, 2003). In addition, she trained and directed Vietnamese dancers as part of a partnership with the Vietnam Higher School of Dance and the Hanoi Ballet-Opera (“Anh Mat”, 2002; “Giap Than”, 2004). In 2008, the choreographer left the CCN in La Rochelle and created the Cornucopiae - the independent dance Company, a new structure that would, henceforth, harbour creation and repertoire, all the works of Régine Chopinot. In 2010, she chose to live and work in Toulon, by its port.

Since 2009, Régine Chopinot has been venturing, questioning and intensifying her quest for the body in movement linked to the strength of the spoken word, through cultures organized by and on oral transmission, in New Caledonia, New Zealand and Japan. These last three years have been punctuated by a myriad of artistic creations: choreographies and films resulting from artistic In Situ experiences were created as part of the South Pacific Project. A privileged relationship initiated in 2009 with the Du Wetr Group (Drehu/Lifou) bore its fruits with the creation of “Very Wetr!”at the Avignon Festival in July 2012 and went on to be reproduced at the Centre national de la danse (National Centre for Dance) in February 2013.

More information

Last update : March 2012

Façade, un divertissement

Façade, un divertissement

Choreography : Régine Chopinot

Interpretation : danseurs John Bateman, Régine Chopinot, Marie-Françoise Garcia, Hiroko Kamimura, Joseph Lennon, Samuel Letellier, Georgette Louison Kala-Lobé, Michèle Prelonge, Pascal Seraline, Eric Ughetto, Duke Wilburn, Glenn Chambers (récitant)

Set design : Jean Le Gac, assisté de Jacqueline Le Gac, Dominique Canal et, pour les photographies, de Roland Fayollet

Text : Edith Sitwell extraits de "Façade and Others Poems" 1920-1935 - Recherches documentaires et analyse des textes Michèle Pagnoux

Original music : William Walton - Direction musicale Cyril de Turckheim - Coordinateur musical Philippe Legris

Live music : Jean-Loup Grégoire (flûte), Alain Truillard (clarinette), Daniel Petitjean (saxophone), Éric Laparra de Salgues (trompette), Aline Pottin (percussions), Laurence Allalah (violoncelle)

Lights : Gérard Boucher

Costumes : Jean Paul Gaultier

Technical direction : Yanick Ros

Sound : Denis Tisseraud

Other collaborations : Régie plateau Denis Tisseraud avec la participation de l'équipe de La Coursive - Professeur de danses de salon Christian Dubar

Duration : 60 minutes (avec entracte de 15 minutes)

Ressources complémentaires à propos de « Façade »

Press Articles
- Dubar, Christian. "Les danses de société inspirent les chorégraphes contemporains", Dansons magazine, janvier 1993, n° 10, p. 11-15. 

- F. A. "Derrière la Façade, Chopinot", Libération, 6 juillet 1993, p. 33. 

- Frétard, Dominique. "La tradition et la rue", Le Monde, 7 juillet 1993.

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