Requiem - Interview With Gigi Căciuleanu

Interview with Gigi Căciuleanu about the performance staged as an absolute première in Constanţa – June 2000 To Gigi Căciuleanu, Romanian choreographer living in France, who left Romania in 1972 to win a wager with himself – the freedom to create in a world free from bias and constraints – the return home after 1990 meant a long series of journeys, and each time he revealed to us, the Romanians, a new facet of his personality. In 1999, on the occasion of the "Gigi Căciuleanu and guests" show at the National Theatre in Bucharest, the well-known fashion designer Pierre Cardin made the following exclusive statement for the Romanian Television: "I am tied to you, Gigi, by a close friendship. I have traveled the world, even as far away as the Far East. I admired you from the very beginning, ever since you came to Nancy. I have seen you perform and I was attracted by your style, which is so very much yours. I put my theatre at your disposal, offering you the opportunity to make your creations known to the world. You have never let me down. This is the reason why, every time I had the chance, I didn't hesitate to support you in your career as a creator, not only as an immensely gifted and brilliant choreographer, but also as a great dancer, who has given a new direction to dance – a forte manner, utterly his own, which doesn't imitate anything of what has been created so far." A creator's soul is difficult to figure out. Only if you have the patience and obduracy of a wood carver, chiseling off, day after day, all the layers of the conventional, can you enter a sublime world known only to the creator. We are back in Constanţa. Gigi is rehearsing for his new première, "Requiem", with the Oleg Danovski Ballet Theatre. We followed him around for a couple of days. "Were you homesick?" "I have the feeling that ever since I came for the first time, for that show at the National Theatre and the Television, I've never left the country again. I have this feeling that my stay here has been uninterrupted, that I've grown roots. In a way, I just might have. Anyway, I am here, in Constanţa, for the second time at the dancers' request, and I like that, what I mean is that the dancers insisted – some of them, perhaps not all, but some of the dancers grasped the chance that Mrs. Munteanu was planning to invite me herself and they insisted that this time they should have a real creation, not a show that has already been seen and done. No, they wanted a new one, created especially for this company, for this Oleg Danovski troupe." "Your preference for the grand music, and particularly opera music has been a constant throughout your artistic evolution. Back in 1990, when you first came back to the country after the Revolution, I saw 'Il Trovattore' at the Bucharest Opera House. There were arias from operas in 'Mozartissimo' too, the one you staged last year here, in Constanţa. But still, why Verdi's 'Requiem'?" "I started from the necessity to settle some accounts, some scores with the past, perhaps with the present and perhaps with the future as well. I took advantage of the fact that we were on the threshold of a new year, of a new century and even of a new millennium and this opportunity that presented itself seemed quite symbolic. This 'Requiem' has its starting point in some roads that open themselves to us. I always guide myself by the idea that what's over is over, no matter if it was tragic or not, and we have to look forward." "But a requiem is a service for the dead." "What I've always found so fascinating about Verdi's music is not the fact that it is a religious service, even if it is a catholic one. Much more than that it is an opera, a ritual of theatricality taken to its ultimate consequences." "As I watched you rehearsing, it occurred to me that you work by successive shocks. You look, reassess the reaction and start on the next move." "Movement starts from a necessity. In this case, we are talking about Verdi's music – a very present, aggressive, corrosive music, which gnaws at you from the inside when you're dancing and gnaws at you from the outside when you're listening or watching, it's a very present music. Some movements simply burst out and they could only be these ones which I imagined and which I executed in my mind quite powerfully. What I mean is that I came out before the dancers and I just executed them – I am a dancer too – and I know that you can't get a new movement right just like that. But these just popped out." "You have performed your own selection on this Requiem without looking for a direct dynamic correspondence. You have taken on a big responsibility." "This Requiem has to be read as a collection of poems rather than as a novel or a short story, as poems with a beginning, a progress and an end, as a number of circuits that close. My task was to invent some rituals, and I mean new rituals, not existing ones. I have conceived it and now I'm ripening it by myself, bearing on my shoulders that responsibility that you were talking about. We are now at that stage when we're chiseling and the chisel is moving by itself, driven by inspiration. The way we chisel the space, the way we sculpt the body and the accessories is changing. It is going to change a lot the moment we get on the stage, where the relation with movement is completely different from the ballet studio." "Tense volumes of matter and antimatter, now fragile, now strong, appearing and disappearing in front of our very eyes in the shape of a dot, of a line, of cube, of a square, a rectangle, a rhombus or a circle. Are you fond of mathematics?" "Maths is a discipline, just like dance is a discipline. It involves a process of disciplining madness. I believe in a learned dance, in a modern dance tending towards intellect. This doesn't mean that I am abolishing talent, but my dancing is a kind of rush between talent, madness, the apparent disorganization of inspiration and this calculation which music has discovered a long time ago. A B flat is a B flat. This B flat played by Yehudi Menuhin sounds different from the way a Conservatory student plays it. Mathematically speaking, a B flat has the same value. There are, however, some qualitative values that make the difference. I think we have come to a point where dancers, being at the same time instrument and instrumentalist, have come to need to be able to understand a kind of approach that is more learned, but they need a foundation … otherwise they feel they are working just for the sake of working. It's just like with an actor reciting Hamlet's soliloquy. He looks for a careful dosage of whisper and shout and breathing, going from whimper to articulated statement. A dancer does the same with a movement. But when he reinterprets it, recreates it, then the creation becomes double and much more interesting." "You are a choreographer who always does his homework. But what happens when you discover that a dancer, by his personality, gives a different meaning to this movement of yours? Have you ever been in such a situation?" "I have found accomplished personalities at the Oleg Danovski Theatre, but I have also generated them. People who didn't know they were personalities have become personalities. Every individual has a personality, every person in the street, anyone. Why shouldn't a dancer have one? The choreographer's work is a real chore, it means working at the psychological level, discovering the downsides of a character and turning them upside down, turn them towards you. Very often a movement that I suggest becomes more valid when confronted with the impossibility of not doing it. It's just as interesting when it is confronted with the possibility of doing it. If someone can do it, it's very well. In the same way, someone else who can't do it well does it his own way and makes it interesting. It's precisely what is so exciting about it. Otherwise you would just draw up a dance on a computer." "I saw in your choreography notebook a lot of poems and drawings. Is this another way of doing it?" "These poems are really just texts from which I started and towards which I'm going. The texts are just like the drawings that help me memorize the idea. A line or a word helps me memorize a movement or a mood that generates a movement more than writing it down word by word would help me. That's why a poem is, to my mind, an essence, it is a text. A few words, a few lines scribbled on a paper talk to me. They are there only for me. They are my tools. Take for instance Japanese calligraphy: you decipher it in a second, because you don't just get the written word, but the philosophical concept, too… They are hieroglyphs. I teach my creation to the public just like Kandinsky used to teach his paintings. I didn't choose Kandinsky by accident, but because he was a painter who also theorized. He wrote two books that are fundamental to art. One of them is called Dot, Line, Plane. It is a very short but very concise work, which in a way makes you understand that the abstract is not at all abstract, but concrete. It's the effect that is interesting, only to discover then the psychological game. Between the two of us – the choreographer and the dancer – we have to convey the thought to the audience, so that they can feel it too. And then they, the audience, can take one or more of the aspects that I propose and reinvent their own stories. In this way the public will be carried towards some symbols that often unfold on more than one level, in different energy registers. I'll give you an example: Bogdan (Nicula) dancing to that square… he has several tasks to carry out in a matter of seconds. First he must measure the square with his palm, then the palm goes down until it forms a right angle with the other palm. To me, this suggests a square. Anyone who sees a 90-degree angle thinks of a square. A square also calls to mind something rigid. But this square runs… the tear out of this square flows just like those images on TV of a man who runs and leaves a trail behind… this square changes shape and becomes a rectangle, and this rectangle becomes a tear. His hand glides along this surface and becomes either a tear or something that runs… it could be the drop on the trees… the blood of the trees. But the hand moves also vertically… which gives you a volume. Therefore, breaking up space, cutting up space into a sort of imaginary labyrinth, or a very straight road, or a corridor, or a succession of ups and downs are to me as many handicaps for the dancer, but they also force him, and me at the same time, to be very rigorous. All these are a source of surprises for me, of moments when something suddenly happens which I wasn't expecting. That's why I speak about synthesis, because I find it fascinating to put in a dance show more than what is specific to dance. In my opinion, dance has reached maturity, or is on the verge of becoming mature as an art and so we should be reaching maturity ourselves and we shouldn't be less disheartened because theatre or music are way ahead, audience-wise too. What I'm saying that we should come to a kind of 'architecturalization', I mean to make this edifice more architectural, this house, or labyrinth, or 100-story block which is choreography." "Your Requiem seems to me like a confession, a pilgrimage undertaken in a moment of double disagreement between the ego and the world: the exterior world and your own world, your inner space. Am I wrong?" "Every artist brings himself on the stage because the feelings are his own and no matter how much he searches into others, he can only do this searching into himself. I often take with me situations that I would have liked to live or situations that do not exist physically. A relationship with someone who is very dear to you and who is gone can create this void in which a very strong wind starts blowing. I believe that certain situations… some meeting points are occasioned precisely by such situations: instances of life, of death, of love, of journeys together. We are all different but we do… meet. Every single one of us is born alone and dies alone. We are born with our mothers, true, but once we come out into this world we are alone. I'll tell you a story. The beginning of the Requiem has its starting point in an episode I once witnessed in the animal world. I was at a deer reserve in France. There were some deer there and a creek and a low fence and suddenly I saw this doe – does are so superb animals – but this one was so heavy and when I looked closer I saw she was giving birth. I realized her placenta was hanging down. What I'm saying is that after the image of that beautiful doe I saw something growing heavier and turning rather unsightly. Then I walked away. When I came back after an hour's walk, the baby had arrived. The kid was just a ball of fur and I saw it rolling towards the creek. He kept falling like this, little by little. Its mother had blended into the rest of the herd and they were all facing away from this baby. And the baby was slowly rolling to its death. A new-born was on the point of drowning. You see what I mean: life-death, to be or not to be, up-down, life-death empty-full. And the whole herd with their backs turned. Now the kid reached the water. I started fretting, trying to get a keeper to come… little by little, faced with danger… that three-second old baby began to rise to its feet and the moment it was up and froze in that position – it was as if it had reached the top of a real high mountain – the whole herd rushed towards it, its mother started licking it, kissing it… they all surrounded it… it was the first communion. It was incredible. This moment when a newly-born baby faced death… and at the same time made a very choreographic effort, mustering all the strength in its barely formed muscles to stand up. That's how I start my Requiem. One of the dancers is lying in this fallen-angel position – and this desire to get to his feet first of all recurs over and over again – that's what we did when we first grew out of monkeys. The first thing we did was expand our horizon and then, what's our next desire? To fly!" "Are you an optimist?" "It is our lot to go on, no matter what happens to us, no matter how many obstacles we come up against… I'm talking now about myself as an artist, but probably a society as a whole comes up against difficulties, too, while creating… while recreating itself. I dedicate this Requiem to André Malraux, who said that the 20th century will be religious or it won't be at all… I find that very beautiful. He didn't say it was going to be religious. It's just that man longs to recover a human condition… not an angelic one. Man should be man, should pursue something, follow the road that opens in front of him, open a road for himself, have the right to meet whomever he wants along this road, have the right to build whatever relationships he can, with all the mistakes this involves. That's the beauty of life."

by Silvia Ciurescu