The humus fanatic is right. Once dead, our contribution evolves. Photo © Romy Alize
Rituel N°5: La Mort by Émilie Rousset and Louise Hémon, produced at Atelier de Paris earlier this month, whimsically and elegantly highlights how commercial culture manages to spit out a honeyed and optimistic ‘deal of death’. It also has a wonderful cast – Barbara Chanut, Mohamed El Mazzouji, Anaïs Gournay, Manon Hugny, Damoh Ikheteah, Tom Pezier, Arthur Rémi, Ophélie Ségala. Together, they deftly negotiate aesthetic and useful multimedia in fast-paced stand-up theater style. Special credit to a pale blond corpse humus processing enthusiast (Manon Hugny) and to Kevin’s presale “Appetizers of Death” (supplied by Tom Pezier).
Rite 5 reminded me that lately many well-known figures have been shuffling out of their mortal shells with more or less managed fanfare.
I am thinking in particular of the late Queen Elizabeth II, who is celebrated for discreetly holding her nose and donating to charity with cipher-like aplomb! And all this for almost three quarters of a century! Duty, they say. The remains of the woman enjoyed a seemingly never-ending, state-subsidized swan song: “Je meurrss, je meurrrrssss, je meurrrrrrrrssssss”. cats! Or rather, corgis!
It’s a shame that funerals like that of the late British Queen suck up so much of the social oxygen otherwise obviously available and leave us all that much more stupid.
The distraction of the famous funeral makes it hard to remember that the dead contribute more than fat fees for the pompes funèbres and the lawyers. Because in a way, the light-haired hummus fanatic from Rituel N° 5 is right. The dead are destined for the humus bin. That is, once he is dead, our contribution will be released to continue to evolve autonomously.
As I perch on my crimson chaise longue and raise my eyes to the sky, I discover three types of dead: empty dead, personal dead, and spiral or Fibonacci dead.
If the late British Queen has symbolized holding her nose all these years, she’s dead as empty as the bin on Wednesday night. Dead, public projections seek livelier targets like their boy Charles; Although a very expensive one, lacking the symbol, her shell, however regal it may be, is a shell, and she has a place among the empty dead.
The personal dead are exactly the opposite of the empty dead, which were essentially public vessels. The personal dead affect the things you arrange your life around – I think of the personal dead as adding an incalculable weight to a person’s leaping rock just as it hits the water. Or as an analogy to entanglement, the phenomenon where two separate things can be in the same place at the same time and very obviously different.
Among those who have recently passed away is Françoise Dupuy, aged 97, who checked out in mid-September. She was, along with her husband, the surviving Dominique, a teacher and choreographer for many of France’s most prominent and influential choreographers and dancers today. She is buried in Père Lachaise, where all the mourners slip into the lost funeral scene from Les 400 Coups for a while. Dupuy believed, I’m told, that dance is about allowing a body to be authentically itself.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurence Bertagnol about her “research” dance group, which is open to all. Laurence now directs the dance and music program at the Conservatoire de danse et de musique Erik Satie Bagnolet, the place where Jaque Charaund developed France’s contemporary dance scene with his Ballets pour demain and Concours de Bagnolet. Françoise Dupuy taught Laurence Bertagnol how to dance.
When Laurence and I met again at the opening of the Regard du Cygne’s Journée de Matrimoine celebration, her mouth twisted in mild dismay and Laurence told me she felt Dupuy’s death. She explained that although Dupuy broke up with her many years ago, she was her “other mother,” her “dance mother.” With a sigh as soft as a cat’s laugh, Laurence adds that she was always afraid Dupuy and her birth mother would meet… She broke up with Dupuy because, as she puts it, “I wanted to dance like me .”
In the way that the “arms” of a galaxy define it as a galaxy distinct from a nebula, the spiral or Fibonacci dead connects the vastly different into vast entities. For this reason, shapes and things in the universe are described as shapes of infinite spirals or Fibonacci series.
I found out about it when—or maybe because—my late brother and I were munching celery sticks in my parents’ kitchen one night. As I now know, certain dead among us are also referred to as spirals or Fibonacci series.
Just a day before I got the news about Françoise Dupuy from Laurence Bertagnol, I was also at the Regard du Cygne to attend a tribute to Laura Sheleen, which I had never heard of. Laura Sheleen died unforgotten in 2021 under Covid lockdown in a distant suburb of Ehpad – établissement d’hébergement pour personnes âgées dépendantes – a public retirement home.
I assumed that Laura Sheleen, who came to France after dancing with Martha Graham, was a teacher and choreographer like Françoise Dupuy, one of the personal dead for the rather large crowd of people who attended the tribute.
She is certainly that for life witnesses such as, among others, who have danced and explored the world of the mind with Sheleen, Amy Swanson, founder and recently retired director of the Regard du Cygne, or Viviane Thibaudier, a psychoanalyst of Jung, or Anna Alexandre, specialist in Theater therapy and behavioral psychology, or Jabrane Sebnat, Sufi dancer and psychotherapist.
But as I began to listen, and then read through the little photocopied program on the front and back, I realized that Sheleen was one of the Spiral Dead, one of those whose contribution describes the forms of the world: a powerful advocate and innovator in the understanding of function of the dance chez nous. Through dance, Sheleen worked on the problem of individuation with myth, masks, movement and space. Not forgetting Eve Alexandre’s excellent short films on the application and impact of Sheleen’s approach(s), professional witnesses to her contribution were enthusiastic working psychiatrists, behavioral, dance and drama therapists…
According to a German architectural anthropologist who happened to be sitting next to me, Sheleen is particularly known for her work on the role of space in “proprioception” – knowing where you are.
In an act of illuminating synchronicity, the remarkable choreographer-dancer Yasmine Hugonnet illustrated this idea the next day in her new performance La Peau de L’Espace (“The Skin of Outer Space”), which premiered September 16 at Lafayette Anticipations. Hugonnet is saying, as I understand it, that proprioception is more of a feedback loop than a plug-in: you need space around you to know where your body is, but your perception creates and recreates that space. You can’t make it work by plugging in a model. Just as a water pump needs to be filled with water, proprioception occurs through movement, gesture, and location. Sheleen’s contribution helps people on the autism spectrum or with behavioral disorders or psychosis find a better place in the world.
Happy Trails everyone.
Breaking, ballrooming, tumbling, poetry: is dance a sport? (by Tracy Danison)