“Corbeaux is one of the pieces I find most captivating because everything is still to be done. Even if it has already been created, I get the feeling every time that there are still things that escape me.”
As part of the performing arts series staged in collaboration with the Community of Madrid’s Teatros del Canal, the Museo Reina Sofía presents, over two sessions, Corbeaux (Crows), by choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen. Upon the conclusion of the session on Tuesday 2 July, the artist and some of the dancers from the company Compagnie O will engage in an open conversation, presented and moderated by Isabel de Naverán, with the audience.
“I felt a vital need to create this performance — which, in fact, is not one — when I saw the company’s dancers develop, and also after living with numerous rituals that take place in my country, Morocco, and which are part of my life. Other pieces have been created through a reflection, through materials that led to this performance being staged; nevertheless, Corbeaux is born from a vital impulse, a heartbeat. I had nothing and, therefore, it was all there. I left the theatre halls, because this project made little sense inside them”. Taken from an interview with Nadège Michaudet at the 2016 Festival d’Automne in Paris, the choreographer’s words articulate precisely how Corbeaux is a displacement towards non-conventional spaces of presentation, and an intense experience, for the members of her company and the audience alike.
Corbeaux is a kind of “living sculpture” with no contrivance, comprising raw elements, gestures, silences and, at times, the cries of a group of women dressed in black, their bodies creating figures and forms in the space they share with spectators. As the piece evolves, pre-conceived notions of time and space vanish, making way for a hard-to-classify lived experience intended to be both intimate and universal.
For the piece Ouizguen researched Persian literature between the 9th and 12th centuries, her interest stemming from how, at that time, candid words and the wisdom of the insane were welcomed and valued in the community. Through these figures, imbued from infancy with the Marrakech rituals of Isawa and Hmadcha, the piece evokes memories of long nights of trance and transformation.
Corbeaux was originally conceived to be performed solely at the 2014 Marrakech Biennale of Contemporary Art. Since then, however, it has been presented and experienced on numerous occasions and in different countries such as Belgium, Germany, Lebanon, France and the USA.
In point of fact, on the basis of it being performed in the last country mentioned above, researcher Leila Tayeb wrote in the magazine Walker Reader in 2017 that Corbeaux “describes the radical quality of vitality”, whilst reflecting on the paradoxes revealed when the Western gaze, or more specifically the American gaze, attempts to interpret pieces produced at the heart of unfamiliar societies and traditions.
Some US responses to Ouizguen’s work have followed a pattern well-embedded since the 19th century in which Western viewers interpret elements of movement, sound, and costume as the raw ingredients of a digestible and exotic North African culture distilled via a dancing envoy. In this mode of analysis, the particular interventions of an artist or company tend to be subsumed into a larger set of narratives about the pre-given meaning of place. Some places then are privileged as those from which it is possible to represent universal (Western) truths, while others become realms of fantasy in which to find pleasure in mystery. Here I want to suggest that it is possible to read Ouizguen’s work in a way that allows us both to learn something about the specificity of her and the members of Compagnie O’s (disparate) origins, while simultaneously grappling with questions foregrounded in the composition that exceed national or ethnic frameworks.
Bouchra Ouizguen (Ouarzazate, Morocco, 1980) is a choreographer and dancer. She lives and works in Marrakech, where she has been committed to developing the local choreography scene since 1998. Her practice encompasses themes of contemporary society and the relationship between Morocco’s visual arts and popular arts by way of different formats and mediums that include performance, sound and video. A self-taught artist and oriental dancer from the age of 16, her early experimental works, such as Ana Ounta and Mort e moi, demonstrate a clear interest in literature, music and film, and in 2010 she created her own company, Compagnie O.
Also in 2010, Ouizguen received the New Choreographic Talent Award from France’s Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD) and the Jury's special award from the professional trade union of theatre, music and dance critics for her acclaimed piece Madame Plaza (2008), in which she shares the stage with Aita dancers-singers. In 2011, with choreographer Alain Buffard, she performed the solo Voyage Cola at Festival d’Avignon, and, one year later, conceived Ha!, a piece for different dancers-singers first performed at the Montpellier Danse Festival and subsequently, in 2013, at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris.
After creating Corbeaux (2014), she presented Ottof (Ants, in Berber) at the Montpellier Danse Festival in 2015, and in 2017 she composed Jerada, a project devised for the dancers of Carte Blanche, the Norwegian National Company of Contemporary Dance, which won the Critics’ Award for best dance piece.
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