La Grande Nymphe, 2023

These nymphs I want to perpetuate them.
So clear,
Their light incarnate, that it flutters in the air
Drowsy in dense sleep.
Did I love a dream?

- Stéphane Mallarmé [Translation]

The mythical figure of the Nymph is that of a carnal body that vanishes and reappears, embodying the rhythm of erotic desire. It is at the heart of one of Claude Debussy’s most famous compositions, the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894), inspired by a poem by Mallarmé. The Prelude does not tell a story, but recreates the lascivious and sensual atmosphere of an afternoon in music, and would become famous in dance history through a rendition by Nijinsky. A century later, choreographer and dancer Lara Barsacq tackles this enduring image of the Nymph as depicted by men. She is accompanied on stage by Marta Capaccioli. Together, they create a hymn to the free body, and to dance as a chance to free oneself from a pre-existing idea of sexuality. They move on an explosion of sounds, in which the Prelude breaks down into electronic and synthesizer music by Cate Hortl, until it is eventually interpreted live by a classical ensemble. A sensual battle with tradition, for a new erotic imagery.

After Lost in Ballets russes (2018), IDA don’t cry me love (2019) and FruitTree (2021), La Grande Nymphe is Lara Barsacq’s fourth production.

La Grande Nymphe premiered on May 17, 2023 at Kunstenfestivaldesarts, in co-presentation with Charleroi danse (La Raffinerie, Brussels).

La Grande Nymphe - a project by Lara Barsacq (2023)

Creation and performance: Marta Capaccioli, Lara Barsacq, Cate Hortl, Léonore Frommlet, Wanying Emilie Koang, Alyssia Hondekijn

Original Music: Cate Hortl

Stage and costumes design: Sofie Durnez

Light design: Estelle Gautier

Artistic advices: Gaël Santisteva

Video: Gaël Santisteva, Lara Barsacq

Video animation: Katia Lecomte Mirsky

Music: Claude Debussy

Technical direction: Emma Laroche Régie

Sound: Sammy Bichon

Administration & production: Myriam Chekhemani

Communication & distribution: Quentin Legrand - Rue Branly

Production: Gilbert & Stock

Coproduction: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Charleroi danse - Centre Chorégraphique de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Théâtre de Liège, Les Brigittines (BE), CCN de Caen en Normandie, CCN2 - Centre Chorégraphique National de Grenoble (FR)

Residencies: Charleroi Danse, Grand Studio, Les Brigittines (BE), CCN de Caen en Normandie, CCN2 - Centre Chorégraphique National de Grenoble (FR)

With the support of Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles - Service de la danse

With the kind participation of Mrs. Coralie Cadène, head of costume heritage at the Opéra national de Paris.

Choreographer Lara Barsacq, imbued with the art of her ancestor, dedicates her pieces to the Russian avant-garde. And to its mythical female figures. (…)
Unlike Dominique Brun, expert in the lost gestures of the Ballets Russes, which she resurrects through quasi-documentary recreations, Lara Barsacq is an archivist driven by affect. This is evidenced by her piece ‘Fruit Tree’ (2021), which combines movements invented from photos of the ballet Les Noces (1923), sweet pop songs and ecofeminist digressions. If her approach tends towards the marriage between multiple artforms dear to Serge de Diaghilev's revolutionary company, the choreographer also wishes to explore other territories and does not fall into hagiography: "There is always a desire to pay homage and deconstruct at the same time." Her warhorse? Highlight the role of women in this artistic avant-garde, overshadowed by male headliners. (…)
For the last part of this series, ‘La Grande Nymphe’, she summons a fantasized mythological figure, a sort of female counterpart of a faun interpreted in the last century by Nijinsky. The dancer Marta Capaccioli embodies it, carried by an erotic power which contrasts with the modesty of the ballet nymphs of yesteryear. By looking for heroines throughout History, Lara Barsacq ended up inventing one.

Belinda Mathieu, Télérama, 27.09.23

Choreographer Lara Barsacq, between Ballets Russes and female icons.
Portrait of Lara Barsacq by Rosita Boisseau, Le Monde, 24.09.23

The podcast series ‘Le Beau Bizarre’ by Zineb Soulaimani dedicated its Episode #47 to Lara Barsacq’s La Grande Nymphe, with interventions by Gaël Santisteva (artistic advisor) and Daniel Blanga Gubbay (artistic director of Kunstenfestivaldesarts). Listen to it here (39’, in French).

Lara Barsacq has this quality of knowing how to skilfully and accurately interweave dance, music, speech, video, animation, scenography, costumes and light. She also offers a real role to the actors of these mediums, whether they are physically present on stage or not. (…)
Lara Barsacq's work is always intelligent, sensitive, wacky and highly documented. If 'La Grande Nymphe' lacks neither panache nor imagination, the dramatic concentration, in the sense of the innumerable links that the choreographer manages to weave between the different components of the three works to create her own, is so rich that it becomes almost dizzying. No doubt, by showing all her richness, this Great Nymph also reveals all her vulnerability.

Lodie Kardouss,, 22.05.23

Lara Barsacq's La Grande Nymphe captivates and delights the Kunstenfestivaldesarts (…)
Through her precise and fluid gestural vocabulary, her pictorial poses, her slowness and acceleration, her asserted eroticism, Lara Barsacq continues her construction game, between references, accuracy , balance and perpetual transformation.
The result is a work of extreme sophistication delivered in complete relaxation. Already present in the two previous pieces, Marta Capaccioli once again shows herself to be an exceptional sidekick - until the finale where, in solo, she gives her very personal version of la Grande Nymphe while Léonore Frommlet, Wanying Émilie Koang and Alyssia Hondekijn play Debussy's Prelude live.

Marie Baudet, La Libre, 20.05.23

Masturbating fauns, sexually unfulfilled nymphs and centuries of heteronormative eroticism – this and more in Lara Barsacq’s latest creation, an explosive investigation on the limits of male-depicted sexuality and female body’s objectification that ends up nourishing even more the political and imaginative horizon of feminism in performing arts. (…)
Sharing the stage with electro artist Cate Hortl and performer Marta Capaccioli, the former Batsheva Company dancer unfolds an inclusive and horizontal process of diachronic confrontation with the past, floating across space and time with luminous, chiselled motions that produce a kind of intensity, a dissonance charged with novelty that makes the piece dense, and then voltaic, and then persuasive. (…)
Set ablaze with risqué lace tights, orgasmic sound distortions and angular, bas-relief like embraces, La Grande Nymphe’s unapologetic core burns like a minor sun, obliterating the limits of amorous imagination in an attempt to «free oneself from a pre-existing idea of sexuality». And indeed, hardly any offspring of Terpsichore was ever so erogenous, arousing and liberating as Barsacq and Capaccioli’s collisions between sex and sense: as their bodies tear each other to wholeness in a rhapsody of reciprocal pleasure hurled to the exhaustion of any objectification and idealisation, the man-made “woman” comes undone under the duo’s unquantifiable effervescence of aliveness and the nymph – together with her naiad sisters and their mistreated and exploited cousins, the muses – is finally unbound.

Francesco Chiaro, Persinsala, 18.05.23

As in her previous pieces, the choreographer intends to bring to light the forgotten role of women in dance, whether real (Ida Rubinstein or Bronislava Nijinska in her last two pieces) or imaginary like this Grande Nymphe. And as usual, she does it by mixing dance, music, storytelling, explorations of the archives and a good dose of humor. With the bonus, this time, a frankly assumed eroticism. (...)
Falsely wobbly, wonderfully documented and deliciously crazy, this Grande Nymphe is a real success ending with a live version in trio (flute, harp, cello) of Debussy's score offering Marta Capaccioli a bewitching solo in which she masterfully intertwines the gestures of the nymphs and the Faun. An ideal finale for a show as rich as it is delightful.

Jean-Marie Wynants, Le Soir, 18.05.23


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