Marie-Claude Pietragalla is an emblematic figure in the world of dance and choreography. Together with Julien Derouault, an astounding dancer, she has created a unique world, designed as the setting for choreographic experimentation and exploration in “théâtre du corps” (body theater). She is a contemporary artist who draws inspiration from modern society, yet remains open to historical influences by creating a link with the present to explore the art of movement.

COMPASS: What compelled you to become an artist?

M.-C. PIETRAGALLA: I was very shy as a child. Everything clicked into place when I saw a television program that went behind the scenes at the Paris Opera. Dance as a living performance helped me to communicate in a different way, using my body. What I particularly love is living in the moment and the idea of pushing my body beyond its limits. Also, dance brings together different arts: music, theater, visual arts and now digital art. The human element is also vital — the relationship with the audience comes alive once you step onto the stage.

What challenges have you overcome to get where you are today?

M.-C. P.: The real challenges I face are those I set myself. I have goals and an ideal that I work towards. I have experienced the security of being a recognized artist within an institution like the Paris Opera.

Then, I took a risk when I left all that behind to build a new universe with the freedom to create and the desire to constantly develop new ideas. You have to keep a kind of childlike curiosity alive and view your work objectively. Dance is all about movement. We question what we’re doing all the time; we’re in perpetual motion. I believe that you should never be certain about anything, and that you always need to keep communicating. Without that, creativity is dead.

When you dance or choreograph a new piece, what do you want your audience to experience?

M.-C. P.: Dance should be open to a wide and varied audience, irrespective of social divides. We need to demo­cratize dance in a positive way. Beyond the narrative played out on the stage, dance has a sensory element where the audience feels the energy communicated by the artists. Dance is not purely something to be analyzed; a large part of itis instinctive.

“What interests us is having new experiences, and living with the times and modern technology.”


What inspires you when you create a new choreography?

M.-C. P.: My sources of inspiration vary enormously: it might be a topical or historical reference, an outstanding figure, literature, painting, music or film. Eugène Ionesco said that artists are there to ask questions, not to provide answers. We must let our audiences experience our art in their own way, drawing their own conclusions. Our production Mr & Mrs Dream bears this out: it is not only based on the unexpected element that theater can provide, but also the dreams and imagination that come alive onstage. Each spectator sees what they want to see. For example, the preview of our production Marco Polo was held in Beijing. Cultural differences meant that the choreo­graphies as we had imagined them were interpreted according to Chinese codes, and they communicated a totally different message than we imagined. What interests us is having new experiences and living with the times and modern technology.

Speaking of new technologies, are they an important part of your work?

M.-C. P.: They are important, yes, because that’s how our work develops. For example, when we worked with animated images in Marco Polo, we found ourselves in a fantasy world. This made us want to try out an even more advanced technology — 3D. It was a logical continuation of our ideas about how human relationships appear in images and can be distorted or become imaginary or something surreal. Dance needs to echo other art forms. Artistic disciplines and technology can cohabit to serve an idea, story, choreography or event. In the 21st century, artists live with technology and develop with it. There is a sort of upward spiral in technology, which leads us into a race for performance and innovation. It is a fantastic tool for choreographing new pieces.

by Sabrina Khouchane Back to top
by Sabrina Khouchane