After captivating Danse Danse audiences with his magnificent Miniatures, a series of solos created in the fall of 2008, José Navas here returns to group choreography with S, a “meditation in movement” inspired by Erik Satie’s immortal Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes. In this large-scale production, eight magnificent dancers, who carve out endless forms in space to Satie’s ethereal melodies, performed live by French pianist Claire Chevallier. S was created in December 2008 at the Concertgebouw in Bruges for the December Dance Festival; the whole evening will featured also Villanelle, a new solo choreographed and interpreted by José Navas.
A favourite of contemporary dance enthusiasts in Quebec, José Navas took a radical aesthetic turn in 2005: he abandoned all narrative artifices and imperatives and focused on pure movement, which he refined to the point of abstraction. It was this approach that guided the creation of S. For the choreographer it was a question of “inhabiting” the composer’s drawn-out melodic phrases, of seeing the space as a blank page in which movement is inscribed with the precision and painstaking focus of a calligrapher. S relies on the quality and sensitivity of the dancers, whom Navas compares to Stradivarius violins. Interpreting an abstract “score” that is very demanding technically, they manage to invest the “notes” with highly personal and dramatic colourations.
“With true aplomb, the choreographer seems to be resurrecting a part of himself that he had forgotten or buried, something that defines him as an artist: pure movement. The fervour shown by José Navas is in itself enough to trigger an emotional response to this almost mathematical dance.” (On Anatomies, Le Devoir)
S is a production of José Navas/Compagnie Flak, in collaboration with the Concertgebouw in Bruges (Belgium), the CanDance Creation Fund, Danse Danse (Montreal), the Canada Dance Festival (Ottawa), the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and the Centennial Theatre (Sherbrooke). It also received the financial support of the Dance Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Claire Chevallier, pianist
Based in Antwerp, the French pianist Claire Chevallier studied piano at conservatories in Nancy and Strasbourg, as well as at the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels, where she obtained a first prize in piano and chamber music. She performs as a soloist and chamber musician in Europe and Japan, notably at La Cité de la Musique in Paris, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Kaaitheater in Brussels, the Concertgebouw in Bruges, the Vredenburg in Utrecht, and Ueno College in Tokyo.
As a musical researcher, she is fascinated by the pianoforte. For several years, on her own, she has studied the specific characteristics and maintenance requirements (tuning, strings, etc.) of the instrument. She has thereby acquired an extensive historical knowledge of keyboards, which she has begun to collect. To date, her collection comprises five instruments from the period 1842-1920.
Her interest in diverse artistic disciplines over the past few years has led to collaborations with theatre directors, choreographers, filmmakers and visual artists, including Wayn Traub, Rudolf Mestdagh, Josse de Pauw, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, David Claerbout and José Navas.
Further biographical information, along with a complete discography, are available on the artist’s website at www.clairechevallier.com.
Born in Venezuela in 1965, José Navas first made his mark internationally as a talented and charismatic soloist, and later as a choreographer. The founding director of the Compagnie Flak, he has created some thirty works, either as an independent choreographer or for his own company. He has received several international awards and is regularly enlisted by other companies and artists for a wide range of artistic collaborations. Although he has distinguished himself with his bold and unusual works for group, José Navas is now focusing his artistic research on the essence and purity of movement. Abstraction, restraint, intensity and depth are some of the hallmarks of his current productions.
José Navas began his dance studies in Caracas before entering the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York. In this city he performed with the likes of Stephen Petronio, Michael Clark, Lucinda Childs, as well as such independent choreographers as William Douglas, who created While Waiting, a magnificent solo for Navas which won a prestigious Bessie Award for excellence in dance. Together, the two artists moved to Montreal, where they shared their passion for dance until the death in 1996 of this great choreographer and friend.
The arrival of José Navas in Montreal in 1991 marked the beginning of his choreographic career, leading to the formation of his own company, La Compagnie Flak, in 1995. Since then, the troupe has given over 300 performances in some twenty countries. The solos Sterile Fields, Bosquejo and Abstraction are among the major works of his early years, together with the duets Scattered Yields and Luna Llena. In 1998, the bold and provocative trio One Night Only 3/3 met with unprecedented success in Canada. The choreographer’s reputation stems in large part from the sensuality of his works and his ability to discover the essence of things. In 1999 he was named Best Young Foreign Choreographer by the European magazine Ballet Tanz Aktuell International.
In 2000 José Navas was among “Quebec’s 100 Most Influential Personalities,” according to the French magazine L’Express. The same year he created his first sextet, Perfume de Gardenias, a co-production of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Joyce Theater in New York and the Korzo Theatre in The Hague. The work played to packed houses for three weeks in Montreal and was performed in several cities worldwide, including New York, Budapest and London.
In 2001, in collaboration with a cellist, José Navas celebrated the music of Benjamin Britten and Allan Hovhaness in Haman/Navas Project.Presented in the Danse Danse series, the piece would later become Solo with Cello. Laura Taler’s documentary Perpetual Motion chronicles the creative processof this intimate work, which toured from 2000 to 2003 in some ten countries, including the United States, Britain, the Czech Republic, Japan and Israel.
In 2003 Navas created Adela, mi amor, a choreography for six female dancers which featured the on-stage presence of composer Michel F. Côté. The work inspired the art film Adéla and was a finalist for the 20th Grand Prix of the Conseil des arts de Montréal. Presented in its world premiere in Bruges, Belgium, and then at the Göteborg Dance & Theatre Festival in Sweden, the work played to sold-out houses at Montreal’s Agora de la danse. Both critics and public were enraptured. “The dancers perform with an unrivalled level of intensity, conveying the relentless force and vibrancy of the work, which unfurls like a shock wave in the theatre, shaking the seats and spectators and rebounding back to the dancers in an endless circle. […] A genuine triumph.” (La Presse)
With The Heavens, Burning with Hours, a duet created for Montréal Danse in 2004, José Navas began a new chapter in his artistic evolution: abstraction. Through this duet he discovered the extraordinary richness of simplicity and the deeper meaning of movement, stripped of all intellectual intention. Adopting the base components of New York postmodern dance, Navas used deconstructed sequences of movement, repetition and geometric figures with no other aim than to explore movement and space. He came to understand how the execution of a movement of extreme precision could provoke a transformation in the dancer that was fascinating for audiences to observe. Presented in several cities throughout Canada and the United States, The Heavens, Burning with Hours marked the beginning of a long-standing collaboration with Montreal composer Alexander MacSween.
Created in 2005, the quartet Portable Dances celebrated the return of José Navas to the stage and confirmed his artistic shift; henceforth, his research would focus on the simplicity of movement and the resonance of the body in space. The following year, José Navas continued this approach with Anatomies, a quintet in which he reveals the precise mechanics of bodies in movement. Clarity and formalism lie at the heart of this poetic work, where the sense of a danced meditation is even more pronounced than in Portable Dances.
In 2007 Navas’s Límpido amor entered the repertoire of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. The choreographer’s first solo on points was created for the company’s principal dancer, Anik Bissonnette, for her farewell gala.
After devoting seven years to choreographies for group, José Navas returned to the solo form with Miniatures (2008), a series of seven abstract and romantic solos set to diverse scores. In this stunning work, he revealed aspects of his personal life for the first time, which only a mature dancer of great strength and subtlety would be able to convey.
Beginning in 1995, José Navas created choreographies and dance sequences for successful and often prizewinning films. Laura Taler’s The Village Trilogy won the Cinédanse Prize for Best Canadian Dance Film, while Philippe Baylaucq’s Lodela received the Best Choreography for the Camera Prize at the Moving Pictures Festival in Toronto. In 1999 he was nominated for a Gemini Award for his performance in The Golden City, directed by Moze Mossanen. In 2001 Laura Taler’s documentary chronicled the creative process of the Haman/Navas Project and the relationship between the choreographer and cellist. More recently, Jocelyn Barnabé’s art film Adéla, based on the choreographer’s Adela, mi amor, was broadcast on CBC and ARTV.
For the theatre, José Navas directed Les Fleuves profonds by José Maria Arguedas at the invitation of Wajdi Mouawad, the celebrated author, dramatist, theatre director and artistic director of the Théâtre de Quat'Sous. The work ran for the entire month of May 2002.
José Navas / Compagnie Flak
A committed citizen within the dance community, José Navas has turned his company into a centre for research, a meeting place and crucible of experimentation. In an attempt to promote the cross-pollination of cultures, arts and generations, Navas and his company are involved in various activities within the artistic community, including choreographic seminars and a residency program for young choreographers.
José Navas has also given master classes and improvisation workshops in Montreal, at P.A.R.T.S, the Belgian school run by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, the Isola Danza Academy in Venice upon the invitation of Carolyn Carlson, the Rotterdam Dance Academy in Holland, and in Mito and Tokyo in Japan.
Choreography: José Navas
Music: Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies by Erik Satie
Pianist: Claire Chevallier
Lights: Marc Parent
Costums: José Navas/Compagnie Flak
The choreographic material has been developed with the dancers
Dancers: Alejandro De Leon, Sarah Fregeau, Hanako Hoshimi-Caines, Leon Kupferschmid, Jordan McHenry, Lindsey Parker, Eldon Pulak, Lauren Semeschuk
Photos: Michael Slobodian
Choreography and dancer: José Navas
Musique: Cum dederit delectis suis somnum ANDANTE de Antonio Vivaldi
Lighting: Marc Parent
Costume: José Navas/Compagnie Flak
Duration: 75 minutes – including the intermission