Rachid Ouramdane is a French choreographer. Since 2016, he has been co-director with Yoann Bourgeois of the CCN2 (National Choreographic Centre in Grenoble). His work is often politically engaged, focused on interdisciplinary research and more recently oriented towards new works for big ensembles (Tout autour, Tenir le temps, Möbius). Rachid Ouramdane has also been an artist associated with Bonlieu (Scène nationale d'Annecy) between 2005 and 2015 and with Théâtre de la Ville in Paris between 2010 and 2015.

Rachid Ouramdane © Geraldine Aresteanu
Rachid Ouramdane
© Geraldine Aresteanu

Laurine Mortha: Now that social and cultural activities are gradually restarting, tell us about how the pandemic has affected you...

Rachid Ouramdane: The pandemic has really challenged the way I produce and the way I create. On the production side, I was working on a piece in collaboration with The National Theatre of Japan, involving seven European dancers and seven Japanese dancers and due to take place in Japan. When this project was cancelled, I felt in the same situation as those companies who produce in one place in order to export their production elsewhere. I had to call into question the way I build projects, because a significant part of my work over the past years is based on international cultural exchanges. Of course, mobility and international openness are important values to share and understand the diversity of cultures. But this sudden ban on travel put strain on the way I work – as I speak to you, I can’t gather with all my collaborators who are located in different European countries. On the creation side, the concept of contact is obviously very important and besides, for several years now, I have been working increasingly with large ensembles. For this reason also, to be required to stay at a distance has felt like a kind of violence. I had the feeling that my tools and my knowledge had been temporarily confiscated. I was forced to reposition myself. 

Has this crisis been an opportunity to think or get inspired? 

I felt as if I were having a double life. On the one hand, I experienced a real earthquake in terms of project management because as head of a choreographic centre, I had to work hard to implement work-from-home tools, suspend or cancel projects, rethink productions. This work has been very demanding because our partners, notably freelancers, were facing real difficulties. On the other hand, I stopped travelling and spent time at home with my family, surrounded by nature. Immobility enabled me to observe nature and seasons. This personal “breathing space” enabled me to project myself and reconnect with my imagination. However, I think we should remain humble when we talk about the “world after coronavirus”. I am convinced that what we are going through will transform our imagination and I am curious to see how the absence of contact will impact our bodies and minds. But it is too early to tell because everything that affects the body takes time, like a long sedimentation. I, too, take a long time to produce: what I am creating today has actually been germinating for ten years. 

<i>Möbius</i>, created by Compagnie XY in collaboration with Rachid Ouramdane © Pascale Cholette-Lefebure
Möbius, created by Compagnie XY in collaboration with Rachid Ouramdane
© Pascale Cholette-Lefebure

On what are working at the moment and what will be taking place in the summer? 

Today, I am working on two creative areas: open-air performances and smaller forms. In July, I will take part in an event called La Grande Balade [“The Great Walk”], in collaboration with Scène Nationale d’Annecy. It will be a circuit with open-air performances in an environmentally responsible spirit. My participation will be part of a larger project Corps Extrêmes [“Extreme Bodies”], my next piece on extreme sports, to be performed hopefully in theatres in Spring 2021. Beyond the spectacular aspect of these extreme practices, I am interested in what it tells one about the individual. When you come closer to these sportsmen and sportswomen, you discover that their performance is just an epiphenomenon of a more fundamental search : these are not crazy people who play with their lives, but people who are asking questions about the boundaries of their freedom. Where can one still exist and how can one cross spaces? This thought, which is both ecological and intimate, will have even more sense after the Covid crisis.

Until then, I will be working on Les Traceurs [“The Trackers”], a series of performances in vast spaces which will constitute several creative steps of the overall Corps Extrêmes: in Semnoz in July, in Forte di Fenestrelle and Fort de L’Esseillon in August under the umbrella of the Andiamo Festival, with extreme sportsmen participation (including the highliner Nathan Paulin) and a number of acrobats from the Compagnie XY (with whom I recently co-choreographed Möbius). Another way to adapt is to think about smaller forms: with Bolzano Dance Festival, we are thinking about a performance hosted in the same theatre as usual, but at a genuinely individual level where artists would perform a solo for one person at the time. 

Will there be cultural activities at CCN2 during the summer?

We now have clear protocols, designed by experts, which have allowed us to resume creative work with artists, but not yet to open up to the public. We know that the link with our audiences and our communities has become fragile and it's our responsibility to recultivate the creative space. It seems urgent to me to compensate for the deprivation experienced over the past months by young audiences, especially by offering generous experiences and forms aimed at children. The initiative L’Autre Colo [“Another Camp”], which is an immersion in arts practice offered during the summer to children who can’t necessarily go on holidays, will be changed into a series of open air workshops spread out over a two-week period. We also work on an open air show for children: an initiatory tale where the dancer Lora Juodkaite does a rotating movement on herself, similar to the movement she performed in my creation Tordre [“Twist”, created by Rachid Ouramdane in 2014]. We will also try to recreate a close link with the public by reopening rehearsals (with a vigilant procedure of welcoming the public one by one). Finally, and even more than before, we will look at ever more ethical and social productions. 

Translated from French by Laurine Mortha and David Karlin

You can watch Möbius online.