“Singing Means Being Aligned”
Whether they’re live or recorded, music and singing are now central to the work of Yuval Pick, who has been the director of the Rillieux-la-Pape National Choreographic Center since 2011. Ever since Apnée and Are Friends Electric, created in 2015, and even more so with Acta est fabula (2018), his dancers – who literally dance as an ensemble, in harmony – have been using their voices on stage, shouting, singing and talking as way to support movement, initiate it or trigger it – and sometimes to prolong it. In the choreographer’s latest piece, FutureNow, they even narrate their own stories, through both words and dance.
How important is the voice to your creative process?
Yuval Pick: The language of movement has allowed me to live, to escape the codes of verbal language. They establish binary relations, restrict what is complex and stifle deep expression. But for me, the voice and verbal language are two different things. Using the voice is a way to deepen my reflection about humanity, to deal with life’s paradoxes and to intensify my dance practice as a form of self-manifesto. In my method, the “Practice-Yuval Pick,” we sing and vocalize. My work investigates somatic trajectories, the ways in which our internal organs send information to our tissues, skin and consciousness. Both professional and non-professional dancers can experiment with ways of making themselves visible in real time, of claiming agency in their movement. The way in which the voice functions in our bodies is part and parcel of this “Practice”: the vocal cords play an essential role in manifesting our alignment in the present moment.
Could you explain what you mean by “alignment”?
Y.P.: Alignment happens when our impulses, the codes we have learned, our mind and heart align as if for a cantata, to create rhythm and movement through the voice. It’s like a form of meditation. Dancing, for me, means bringing out our “inner spirals,” shaking up what is archaic, the past, present as well as a potential future, whereas singing means aligning one’s forces with the verticality of the vocal cords. This practice is very important for me: it allows me to feel movement and voice rising together, to keep the body alive and let it shape and guide our minds. It’s very political, actually: the goal is to bring out people’s voices, to give space to human strength.
How do you work on the voice with dancers? Is it hard for them?
Y.P.: We do a lot of breathwork – breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. I suggest that they experiment with the ways the breath fuels their energy and their presence. Most of the dancers I’ve met focus mainly on what they are doing when they are dancing, and block the breath in their chest, around the solar plexus and the heart, so their internal organs get jammed. The breath is a way for the body to stay free, and breathing in and out is what allows them to reach a state where they can dance.
The voice can also help sustain and enrich self-expression through dance, because for dancers, it’s easier to hide behind movement. However, I’ve never met a dancer who couldn’t sing. The vocal cords require a certain physical availability to allow the voice to come out, and dancers know how to open these physical channels. The body is an amplifier for the voice, which also exits through the back body, from the head, from the stomach, and dancers are familiar with these alignments.
Do you think you will use the voice in your next piece?
Y.P.: Absolutely! We will work on Inuit throat singing with Marie-Pascal Dubé, who directed the wonderful documentary Deep Song (2019). Inuit women sing this facing each other, as the two performers did in my piece Loom, and I’d like to use this structure in a group setting, with men and women of various ages. I’m fascinated by the notion of deep song: it’s not a head voice, you need to be aligned to understand how the body can make this type of vocalizing possible. It comes from the guts, so it will be a good occasion for the dancers to work on being present and invested.