Is it pure coincidence that the tree and forest are recurring elements in many of the pieces created by Christian and François Ben Aïm? Whether they inhabit the stage, a stack of logs or a monumental trunk, whether they descend from the rafters like an upturned copse, or appear in a video backdrop, they mark the territory of a rich process, populated by dense spaces that serve to inspire the imagination.
The forest of Ben Aïm is bountiful and luxuriant. It teems with characters, complex beings, and stories to reconstruct. It calls forth voices, music, images. Getting lost in it means discovering a community of restless human beings, who are quick to bring out, from their own bodies, the strengths and weaknesses of everyone. Through its thick vegetation, we can perceive the words of Peter Handke and Bernard-Marie Koltès, the photographs of Josef Koudelka, the paintings of Edward Hopper, or the characters of fairytales…
Raw emotions, deep-seated feelings
It was a mistake to try and box the company into the pigeonhole of a dance theatre, an identity it quickly outgrew with each new creation – creations that have always gone against the grain of current trends and schools of thought. The choreographers have preferred to develop a relationship with life itself, to dig up feelings, unearth presences and heightened emotional states… But the body remains the main vehicle for their art, and its expressive power brushes off any attempt to tell a story. Facts are presented, events take place, texts exist, and yet it is the body, that flexible, physical tool, which creates the conduit to imagination in action. Dance dominates the game, embodying forces that vie in a tense struggle between hypersensitivity and levity. Emotions are pricked raw, but humour and strangeness are never far away, making the bodily states continually more present and incongruous.
Intersecting modes of expression
In this forest, bodies fire on all cylinders. They become the focus of a choreographic mode of expression that is generated in the entanglement of movement techniques and theatrical devices. Dance, circus, music, and video are the engines that drive the performers into the maelstrom of theatrical illusion, or rather into the eye of the storm: because the performers are at the very heart of these intersecting lexicons. More than express, they embody different bodily states, emotions, and substances, that all interact in the mirage of the stage
It is by playing this game of connivance and complicity with the audience that Christian and François create this dynamic. But in the forest of Ben Aïm, going off the beaten track is what leads to self-discovery and greater self-understanding: from the most intimate solos to large-scale events, from the public arena to the black box, Christian and François Ben Aïm sow their seeds into a wind that blows them straight to new terrain, and new clearings where anything can happen: pieces written with two hands or four, productions that venture deep into new territory, but that are always rooted in drama and humanity.