- Dance in France in the 1980s - A political and environmental context favourable to its development
- The creation of the national choreographic centres
- Today, what exactly is a CCN?
In the 1970s, young French creation was burgeoning. It craved for creation and sharing, but also for visibility and recognition. Talk was about copyright, support for creation, structuring of education, preservation, heritage initiatives…. The creation of the national choreographic centres (CCN) would be an answer to such questions.
How did they come into being? What do they represent today?
”Dance began to evolve quickly, with changes and at times upheavals. ” Benjamin Lamarche
At the end of the 1970s, leading dance names paved the way for abstraction, the author’s choreographic gesture and a certain form of theatricalness. Among them, we can cite Alwin Nikolais, Carolyn Carlson, Susan Buirge, Maurice Béjart, Pina Bausch, François and Dominique Dupuy… and many, many others. These choreographers form a new generation of artists, all of whom dream of “French-style” author-signed dance”. The aims are highlighting of dancers’ singularity, the decentralisation of power, and community functioning.
A large number of dance spaces emerged in France, both in Paris and in the provinces: the Concours de Bagnolet, introduced in 1968 by Jacques Chaurand, served as a springboard for this Nouvelle Danse Française; ONDA (Office national de diffusion artistique: French Office for Artistic Distribution) was set up in 1975, while the Maison de la Danse was founded in Lyon in 1980.
Excitement was at its peak: fierce freedom, no taboos, zest for life. This generation of authors was to meet with the most spectacular approval from the public.
“For what reasons did it [this dance] meet with such success? Because it was close to the public, to the everyday life and the problems of each and everyone. I think that spectators have a profound need for this proximity with art. “Jacques Chaurand
In the mid-1980s, contemporary dance had become a legitimate art, mediatised and financed by public institutions. It was in the midst of all this frenzy that the national choreographic centres (CCN) came into being.
The France of the 1980s was marked by the coming into power of a socialist government. No sooner had he been elected then François Mitterrand made the following appeal to artists: “On behalf of France, I solemnly appeal to all creators and researchers, to all those in companies who have their part to play in creation… I invite men and women of culture to share their know-how and to participate more than ever in the life of the community. All aspects of social life will be transformed as a result and maybe even the profound meaning of politics ”. His speech doubled the budget for Culture; the credits granted to dance were quadrupled.
The President chose the academic and man of the theatre, Jack Lang, as First Minister of Culture. On April 26th 1984, the latter announced ten new measures, with the main aim of promoting the development of dance throughout France (available here).
These measures included the creation of national choreographic centres, cultural structures dedicated to dance, to be directed by choreographic artists assimilated to a variety of artistic movements: from repertoire ballets to contemporary companies. Eleven companies (classical and contemporary) present in the region and the Angers CNDC were chosen to form the first CCNs, a choreographic variant of decentralisation.
“This institutional set-up where artists have their place nurtures the development of dance. “Brigitte Lefevbre –Dominique Orvoine, l’Art en Présence, 2005
The Ministry henceforth considers the CCNs to be dance development hubs. Their mission is to create a “choreographic meshing of the territory” according to the realities of the region in which they are based. This strengthens the support given to independent companies and to places of dissemination.
“The role of a CCN therefore goes beyond the scope of research, creation and production of an artist director. The latter must both develop and disseminate their own creative work while also inventing the modes of existence of the CCN they direct in a wider perspective.
Two years later, Jack Lang specified that “the work of creation and dissemination will be consolidated by campaigns to raise awareness to choreographic art, by the hosting of companies, a guarantee of aesthetic plurality, and by a training policy”.
In 1995, the Association des Centres Chorégraphiques Nationaux (ACCN: Association of National Choreographic Centres) was created in Caen. The aim of the ACCN is to organise exchanges and debates between the teams of the CCNs around the missions entrusted to them by the State and the regional and local authorities: creation, dissemination, hosting and residencies of companies, choreographic development, training, memory, and sometimes programming
The CCNs have been functioning for more than 36 years now. They have evolved, and new places have been awarded the label. Directing bodies have changed, and formats and proposals have diversified. Dance styles too. What do the CCNs have to say today?
Today, there are 19 CCNs spread out over France. They are located, respectively, in Aix-en-Provence, Angers, Belfort, Biarritz, Caen, Créteil, Grenoble, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Marseille, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nancy, Nantes, Orléans, Rennes, Rillieux-la-Pape, Roubaix and Tours.
The CCNs support with the utmost conviction a large number of projects by “independent” choreographers. They work towards the outreach of dance both in France and overseas. They allow publics to sharpen their perception of dance. They engage in interpreter training issues. They question memory, traces and the accessibility of works showcasing their archive materials on Numeridanse. And, naturally, they produce and present shows.
While the Nouvelle Danse Française and classical ballets were the first artistic targets of CCN directors, artists with diverse and varied dance styles now occupy these positions. For the past 10 years, Mourad Merzouki, a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, has been the director of the Créteil et Val de Marne CCN. Kader Attou and his company Accrorap have directed the La Rochelle CCN since 2008. The circus artist Yoann Bourgeois is joint director of the Grenoble CCN with the contemporary choreographer Rachid Ouramdane.
While Grenoble has two directors, collectives were also to be found at the head of two CCNs in 2019: since January, the collective FAIR[E] directs the Rennes CCN, while the collective (LA)HORDE took over as director of the Marseille BNM (Ballet National de Marseille) in September.
According to the release issued by the Ministry of Culture dated May 2018, it is now a question of reflecting the new generation of choreographers, that which questions codes, which ensures a dialogue between the different artistic disciplines, which, more than defining itself in any one single art form, generates social ties within its territory.