Christian & François BEN AÏM are brothers. For more than twenty years, they have developed a rich body of work abounding in poetry and high standards, interlaced with a brotherly bond and singularity.
In the wake of their cross-disciplinary training in dance, physical theatre and circus arts, each one followed their own career as performers. In 1997, the brothers joined forces to create À l’abri du regard des hommes, avant d’aller mourir ailleurs, a hybrid performance in dance and theatre, thus embarking on a partnership that would lead to some twenty original pieces, deeply rooted in their grassroots work while also being produced abroad.
With this virtual exhibition, through the approach of the fraternal tandem, let us enter the BEN AÏM world and the universe of their latest piece JESTS.
BEN AÏM duo’s dance strikes first and foremost through its physical engagement. Whatever the themes or intentions of a piece, these are borne by an asserted physicality and they seem to uncompromisingly pervade the performers.
This physical engagement is coupled with a psychic one, calling on the performers’ perceptions and emotions, their intimate relationship with movement. A core material of creation, this sensitivity is also called upon at every instant of the performance, demanding that the performer occupy the heart of the piece, making their presence fully sincere on stage.
For the two choreographers, the dancer is not just an interpreter of movements, but rather someone who experiences the sensitive.
2. From energy to form
BEN AÏM dance above all stems from energy, defining itself not so much through a plastic arrangement but rather through the forming of various states and multifaceted energies. And yet, their writing can assert extreme precision, carving the breaks, suspensions, the exactitude of the bodily states or the use of choreographic vocabulary. Hence, the real issue lies in two items: clarity of form alone, and the exactness of the state summoned by the performer each time s/he accomplishes the form.
The composition of the pieces stems from this same alchemy between the sensitive and the formal. Hinging on clearly identifiable sequences, it however plays subtle shifting and overlapping effects, thus muddying the waters of the apparent geometry. For the driving force underpinning these works lies less in the order of a narrative than in the art of modulating flows, be they rhythmic, visual, or sensitive, drawing the spectator along a skillfully constructed journey of impressions.
« We perceive what surrounds us with the singularity of a view that calls imaginary and symbolic, tracking down the signs of a buried, forgotten humanity, with the stubborn persistence of gold seekers. »
One of the most remarkable traits of the “BEN AÏM style” is undoubtedly the presence of a poetic universe, whose visual and acoustic richness is an eye-opening process for the spectator, carrying the dance while resonating with it. Teeming with images, references and symbols, the imagination of the two choreographers borrows from fantasy, from the magic of fairytales or the invisible reality of what is surreal. It suggests a world buzzing with a thousand echos, with elusive flashes to be seized or approached to catch a glimpse of the mystery.
Their multidisciplinary writing is inspired by both music and image, just as it borrows from theatre: not for the reason of drawing motives or situations from them but in order to nurture dance with their expressive fecundity. Movement is part of an intimate dialogue with the rhythms and colours of an original score, often played live and specially written for the piece; and the dancers seek a simple yet full on-stage presence, just short of the movement, as the quintessence of dramatic representation.
4. A poetry of the instable
Christian and François BEN AÏM define movement as a form of offset and dance as a progression. “Taking a step is a bit like deviating from oneself and taking the risk of doing something new” write the choreographers. By exploring fraternity, desire, and emancipation in their contradictory richness, by questioning the norms in their ambivalence, they tackle each piece like an unbalancing act, an experience whose major challenge is to get close to the void, seen as the place of danger.
It is this internal displacement that is played on stage, making each piece a crossing, a path interspersed with transformations that in turn displace the spectators eye. Through a subtle effect of empathy and contagion, the Ben Aïm brothers lure us into a world where nothing is stable, where truths become blurred and reinvented, a world to question together.
With JESTS and its atypical approach to comic, the choreographers are opening up a new playing field to pursue research into their writing of a dance of relinquishment. Accidents, surprises, diversions, provoking unexpected chain reactions, constitute, in a subtle reference to silent cinema, many figures of speech which form the inspiration of the piece and give free rein to playfulness and whimsical joy.
In a singular language, the six high-level performers form a community of the absurd and bring together the complex dynamics of human interactions. The exposure of a humanity often held back and concealed by social conventions.
The characters, both engaged and absent, roam the stage with an intention that slips our mind, or without intention, enter and leave suddenly, seem to ignore each other then come together in a strange silent ballet ... The spectator, through the cathartic effect of bodies that free themselves from constraints, participate in the process of emancipation and share the heightened sensation of the moment. The unusual physicality of the bodies, crossed by a sudden, uncontrolled energy, renews our view of the world, in an invigorating momentum!
"The unusual is combined with indiscipline. The levels of meanings are superimposed, are hidden and are reconstructed, offering to the dancers, dispossessed of themselves, a space to be experienced and to the spectator, a way to dream, smile, laugh, ... stamp with envy! A facetious spirit then leads the dance. We would like it to take hold of the aberration of the world to make it luminous." - Christian & François BEN AÏM