Listening to Laurence Louppe
Through the eyes of an artist and scholar,
by Geisha Fontaine
In this four-minute archival document, Laurence Louppe (1938-2012) covers a lot of intellectual ground. She tackles the notion of the “innocence” of the body, insists on it being “a great space for questions,” contextualizes 1980s French contemporary dance (known as the “Nouvelle danse française”), which she calls a “laboratory of possibilities,” and discusses the various historical layers that were part and parcel of contemporary dance in the 1990s.
This film was shot on December 12, 1998, and deserves to be seen multiple times. It was a significant moment for recent French dance history: a year earlier, in 1997, Louppe’s seminal Poétique de la danse contemporaine was published with the Editions Contredanse, and that same year, a group of choreographers, the “Signatories of August 20,” came together and formed an association. They criticized the funding allocated to dance, the type of choreography that was being supported that way, and the works of the previous generation, even though they’d performed in them. The group would become known as the “conceptual dance” movement (also called “non-dance,” a term the artists in question disagreed with). In this video, Laurence Louppe mentions the choreographer Régine Chopinot, a “star” in the 1980s who frequently worked with the fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. The “fashion show” they had imagined together in 1985 was very much in the spirit of the 1980s, but Chopinot later challenged her own conception of dance, for instance with the piece Végétal in 1995 (hence the mourning mentioned by Louppe in the video).
This defining moment was shared by many artists and dance makers, including Louppe. She described herself as a critic, a dance artist and a teacher; she chronicled dance in the magazine artpress as early as the end of the 1970s, and was involved in several ways in the choreographic landscape of the 1980s, as documented by her 1997 book. She could be found in dance studios, theaters, workshops; she gave lectures, wrote, performed, and remained in conversation with multiple artists. Then she shifted her focus to 1990s artists and their analysis of compositional processes, as well as their understanding of style and performance. This is reflected in Poétique de la danse contemporaine, la suite, published in 2007.
Well read, with a deep interest in literature and in visual arts, Laurence Louppe never stopped fighting for greater recognition of dance, with a clear aesthetic focus. She was a lady on the move!
She participated in several choreographic projects and liked to turn her lectures into performances; while it’s not obvious in this film, little by little, she became bolder in her public speaking, sometimes taking her audience aback. She hated strict evaluation criteria, norms, injunctions; her vivacity of mind, her ability to connect seemingly different things, her love of the interplay between perception and knowledge, her curiosity for dance-makers’ experiences, were all striking. So was her sense of humor: I can still see her with her naughty gaze, making a sly comment about “good intentions,” laughing and tilting her head down. Unforgettable Laurence…
But let’s allow her to conclude and return to the video:
“Finding a new approach to the production models for dance works; wrenching the work from the weight of its so-called original state (often fetishized in the dance community), accepting its core instability.” (Laurence Louppe, “Du partitionnel,” artpress, October 2002.)
Geisha Fontaine is a choreographer, dancer and scholar. In 1998, she founded Mille Plateaux Associés with Pierre Cottreau. The pair felt close to the “anartists” and favored a constant questioning of art. Fontaine holds a PhD in art philosophy and has authored Les 100 mots de la danse (Que sais-je ?, 2018), Les danses du temps (C ND, 2004, translated in Spanish in 2012), Tu es le danseur and Là (micadanses, 2008, 2009). Her work has been published in numerous books and journals and has been a guest artist and scholar at universities and art centers in France and abroad. She has been a regular collaborator of the C ND since 2003, and she was the scientific consultant for the exhibition La danse contemporaine en questions, produced by the C ND and the Institut Français.
Listening to Laurence Louppe
Study days, practical workshops and listening rooms
at CN D on 30.09 and 1.10.2022