Ballet National du Canada


Choregraphed by Jean-Claude Gallotta.
Words and original music by
Serge Gainsbourg.
a version recorded for this show by Alain Bashung

Gallotta/Gainsbourg/Bashung“Fourteen dancers in shirts and jeans, sometimes bare-chested or wearing black lace bras, all playing in turn the role of the hero of the bloody drama, loving sex and love more than life itself. […] The trinity of Gallotta, Gainsbourg and Bashung took the audience on a journey that ricocheted between bodies and voices, violence and gentleness, and into the very abyss of desire and jealousy.” (TÉlÉrama, Paris)

A pioneer of contemporary dance in France, Jean-Claude Gallotta teamed up with two rogues of popular song, and all plunged wholeheartedly into L’Homme à tête de chou. A choreographic and symphonic poem that evokes the 1970s, L’Homme à tête de chou brings to life the sombre tale of a tabloid journalist who is madly in love with Marilou, an unfaithful hairdresser who is eventually killed by the jealous hack. Gallota presents this story of mad, fatal love in flashback fashion on a bare stage. Fourteen electrifying dancers fully assume the songs of Gainsbourg’s famous album, rearranged by Denis Clavaziolle and sung on a soundtrack by Alain Bashung. In black and petrol blue.

“The dancers are magnificent. With incredible energy, they devour the space with the appetite of wildcats. […] The choreography is seductive, spirited, efficient and immediately recognizable as Gallotta to the core.”(Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris)

Obsessive passion, sexual provocation, masturbation, murder, ghosts. Gallotta illustrates all this by means of dance alone. […] Gainsbourg possessed a poetic, carnal force that made everything permissible. […] The fervour of the dancers and of the solid, honey-voiced Bashung sweep aside any reservations. ” (Le Figaro, Paris)

Gallotta/Gainsbourg/BashungL’Homme À tÊte de chou
Since the première of the show at the Centre chorégraphique national in Grenoble on November 12, 2009, L’Homme à tête de chou has been acclaimed in a dozen French cities and will tour exclusively in France and Belguim in 2010-2011. Audiences can’t resist this piece, with its story of a plunge into madness and its air of absence – the absence of Gainsbourg of course, but also of Bashung, who was to have shared the stage with the dancers and perform the songs live. Fate decided otherwise. Bashung died of lung cancer in March 2009, but the chair he sat on during rehearsals is still there. At the beginning of the performance it is gently removed from the stage in a moving salute to the deceased. The show remains, however, a cry of desire, a mad longing to survive.

“Very much alive, despite all the obstacles. Like an ongoing conversation, an unquenchable life instinct.” (Le Journal du dimanche, Paris)

“The choreography draws directly from the musical audacity of Gainsbourg. Jean-Claude Gallotta displays that rhythmic palette with his own personal dance vocabulary of vigorous movement, sweeping arms and frenetic chassÉs. […] He delights in group and ensemble effects and offers beautiful intimate variations. A performance full of radiant energy.”  (La Croix, Paris)

Connected at the Hip
In an interview with Claude-Henri Buffard, Jean-Claude Gallotta spoke of his affinity for Serge Gainsbourg and Alain Bashung and his choreographic approach to staging the piece.Gainsbourg and Bashung were artists who nourished me. They have been my lifelong musical companions. I have always felt that I belonged to that family of artists, those who try to maintain artistic rigour while reaching a wide audience. […] It is the same musical family, the same ethical family, if you will – moral elegance, artistic rigour, inspiration tinged with dark irony. […] Bashung had tremendous respect for Gainsbourg, both for what he brought to French song and for the man’s style, what I would call his insolence, his elegant desperation. I believe that what he also admired in Gainsbourg was his ability to incorporate into French song jazz, African music, Kurt Weill, reggae or pop, and to demonstrate that there is no racism in music. He played with all these styles, thereby creating his own style. […]

Gallotta/Gainsbourg/BashungPaul Valéry said of poetry that it was ‘a long hesitation between sound and meaning’. That is what Gainsbourg and Bashung did in their respective albums. I also aim for that with dance, a long hesitation between movement and meaning. […] What I want to create with them [the dancers] is the same universe, the universe of the album, my way of dealing with asceticism, violence, desire, absence. […] I want all that to circulate through and around the dancers in a black and white world so that we perceive something of the hidden pain of these two artists, as well as their incredible energy. The dancers do not incarnate them; they evoke them. Each dancer can be imbued with the character of Gainsbourg or Bashung or Marilou or the cabbage head man (l’homme à tête de chou). My primary focus is to establish an atmosphere, a sort of music hall without the sequins and flash, or sequins that reflect the angst of living and the joy of still being alive.”

Jean-Claude Gallotta
A native of Grenoble, Jean-Claude Gallotta has created over fifty choreographies that have been presented on every continent. Trained in the fine arts, he first made his mark as the founder of the Groupe Émile Dubois, a troupe of dancers, actors, musicians and visual artists that presented site-specific installations. One year after its inception, in 1980 the Groupe Émile Dubois moved into the Maison de la culture de Grenoble (MC2) and changed its name to Centre Chorégraphique National de Grenoble – Groupe Émile Dubois. Since then Jean-Claude Gallotta has created over twenty dance pieces, including Mammame, Docteur Labus (1988) and Les Mystères de Subal (1990), all three of which were presented at the Festival international de nouvelle danse in Montreal. In 1999 he presented Presque Don Quichotte at the Hippodrome de Douai. It was later performed in Shizuoka, Japan. In 2000 he mounted L’Incessante, a solo for Mathilde Altaraz that was presented at the Avignon Festival. In 2001 his piece Les Larmes de Marco Polo was presented at the Biennale internationale in Lyon, followed in 2002 by 99 duos at Théâtre National de Chaillot, the first part of the trilogy Les Gens. In 2003 he choreographed the second part, Trois Générations, a piece that featured children and several of the company’s former dancers and performers. Trois Générations was part of the Danse Danse program in autumn 2005 and mark the return of this beloved choreographer in Montreal.

Starting in 2004 Jean-Claude Gallotta began creating his shows in his new MC2 studio, starting with the third and final section of the Gens trilogy, Des Gens qui dansent (2006), and then 2147, l’Afrique, a piece featuring African dancers directed by Moïse Touré. In October 2007 at the Théâtre national de Chaillot in Paris he presented Cher Ulysse.

His next production in 2008 was Bach danse expérience with Mirella Giardelli and the Atelier des Musiciens du Louvre. This was followed by Lully’s Armide (directed by Robert Carsen; orchestra conducted by William Christie) at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, and Chroniques chorégraphiques - saison 1, a sort of “stage movie” that was a further poetic exploration of people and genres. His 2009 productions were Le Maître d’amour, based on the novel by Maryse Wolinski, and L’Homme à tête de chou.

Many of his works are now part of the repertoire of the Opéra de Paris, the Opéra du Rhin, the Teatro San Martín in Buenos Aires, the Ballet du Nord and the Ballet de Lorraine.

From 1986 to 1990 Jean-Claude Gallotta was the artistic director of the Maison de la culture in Grenoble (which he renamed Le Cargo), thus becoming the first choreographer to head a national theatre in France. Gallotta has established an ongoing relationship with artists and artistic institutions in Japan. From 1997 to 2000 he was the director of the dance department of the new cultural ensemble of Shizuoka, where he trained and directed a company of eight dancers.

Interview with Jean-Claude Gallotta
L’Homme À tÊte de chou

Alain Bashung “crossed over to the other side” on 14 March 2009, after you had been working with him for three years on a project to put on a show based on Gainsbourg’s “l’Homme à tête de chou”…

Absence was part of this artistic adventure from the outset – the absence of Gainsbourg, and of Marilou, the central character in the l'Homme à tête de chou album. I was working on this idea for the show and had talked to Alain Bashung about it. And then he absented himself too. We knew he was ill, but we thought he’d be with us through to the end, that he’d come and see the show and even take part in it, live, one evening. What remains is the wonderful gift that he has offered us, with the help of Denis Clavaizolle and Jean Lamoot, of having re-orchestrated, arranged, sung and recorded for us the album that he was still working on in the last few weeks of his life.

It’s an amazing project: Gainsbourg, Bashung, Gallotta. What brought it about?

The adventure actually started quite a long time ago. Gainsbourg and Bashung were among the artists who inspired me. In my own way, I’ve always felt that I belonged to that family of artists. A few years ago, Bashung and I began to have closer contact; he was looking to bring dance into his concerts.

And in 2006, the producer Jean-Marc Ghanassia, who had noticed the rapport between us, suggested that we worked together on this project.

We both reacted very quickly to the proposition; we met again and immediately felt at ease with each other. We had the same references. We became friends. To show that he was interested in the adventure, Bashung soon found time to re-orchestrate and record the whole album.

Is putting the show together a major break with your previous work or a form of continuity?

It’s both. I’m still totally in line with what I’ve been trying to do for many years, which is to “immerse” contemporary dance in other worlds. I’ve done it with rock songs, jazz, Khmer music, Bach, Kurt Weill, Janacek, Pascal Dusapin and Lully a few months ago. But it’s also a break because contemporary dance and songs belong to two different worlds, they’re different forms of energy, different types of challenge and sometimes a different audience, so we somehow have to get them to live together.

What technical problems has this adaptation posed?

It hasn’t posed many more problems than a normal show. It must be said that Alain Bashung did some tremendous work. Without ever compromising the original work, and always with the greatest respect, he extended the thirty-two minutes of songs by Gainsbourg to provide an hour and ten minutes of musical continuity, with musical passages used to link the tableaux together. All I had to do was compose my ballet in twelve tableaux and with fourteen dancers.

And the dancers won’t be required to “illustrate” the story…

No. What I’m looking for is to work with them in a single world that’s parallel to the world of the album: it’s my way of treating simplicity, violence, desire and absence. The issue of absence is found lurking in the work of both Gainsbourg and Bashung, the politeness of despair, the extreme rigour of the disenchanted. I’d like to see all that circulating between the dancers in a black-and-white universe, I’d like to show something of the latent sadness that the two artists felt along with their tremendous energy. And the dancers won’t embody them, they’ll simply suggest them, each of them may be filled in turn with the character of Gainsbourg, Bashung, Marilou, and l’Homme à tête de chou (Cabbage Head).

Above all, I want to represent an atmosphere, like music hall without the glitter, or with glitter that reflects both the agony and the ecstasy of being alive.

Interview with Claude-Henri BUFFARD
(March 2009)


Choreography Jean-Claude Gallotta. Choreography assistant Mathilde Altaraz. Dramatist Claude-Henri Buffard. Costumes Jacques Schiotto and Marion Mercier assisted by Anne Jonathan. Words and original music Serge Gainsbourg. In a version recorded for this show by Alain Bashung . Orchestration, additional musics and corealization Denis Clavaizolle. Sound mixing and corealization Jean Lamoot. Dancers Simon Bailly, Sylvain Decloitre, Hajiba Fahmy, Ximena Figueroa, Ibrahim Guétissi, Yannick Hugron, Cécile Renard, Eléa Robin, Thierry Verger, Loriane Wagner, Béatrice Warrand, Thalia Ziliotis. Technical director Pierre Escande. Sound technician Antoine Strippoli. Lighting technician Frédéric Willhelm. Gratitude to Chloé Mons, Yves Quérol, Gérard Michel, Olivier Caillart. With the authorization of Mélodie Nelson Publishing and BARCLAY - a UNIVERSAL label. ProductionJean-Marc Ghanassia and Centre chorégraphique national de Grenoble. Coproduction MC2 Grenoble. Co-realization Théâtre du Rond Point.

Photo 1 © Guy Delahaye. Dancers Ximena Figueroa, Nicolas Diguet, Thierry Verger, Béatrice Warrand, Yannick Hugron, Marie Fonte, benjamin Houal, Hajiba Fahmy, Adrien Boissonnet, Eéla Robin. Photo 2 © Guy Delahaye. Dancers Béatrice Warrand + Thierry Verger and Yannick Hugron. Photo 3 © Guy Delahaye. Dancer Loriane Wagner. Photo 4 © Guy Delahaye. Dancer Eléa Robin.


75 minutes – no intermission