“Enfant” by Boris Charmatz

(A review on Boris Charmatz’s work “Enfant”, written in English for the entry exam of the MA programme. )


Jan. 2016

Boris Charmatz is one of the most acclaimed choreographer of recent years. He has  taken over Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne in 2009, and restructured it to open Musée de la danse to “propose mixing all the tasks normally associated with a National Choreographic Centre and shaking them together inside a framework that would be both ancient and modern, humorous and antiquated, dusty and stimulating, a Museum with no equivalent in the world.”[1] as Charmatz states in his manifesto for the museum. He continuously aims to deconstruct existing contexts of dance, making him one of the most important figures of current dance scene. In his 2011 creation, “Enfant”, Charmatz works with 26 children to bring out audience’s subconscious snobbism, based on cultural assumption which we have inherited from the history.

Huge machinery is what opens the piece. In bare black box stage with black floor, there is an industrial crane, belt conveyer wall and raising platform which audience will later know it makes pumping motion up and down, all in black. Few dancers are laying on the floor, also in black outfit. There is no clear hierarchy in what is the focus on the stage. Nothing has colour, or life. Suddenly, crane starts winding wires which are spread all over the stage, creating violent atmosphere. In the end, one of the dancer attached to the wire will be hung upside down in the air. The dancer hanging is completely surrendered, and this sequence is very mechanic and brutal that you would understand the power balance of machine and human immediately. Then, the machine starts flirting with audience by repeating the action of hanging the dancer up and down, in unpredictable timing. By this very simple composition, Charmatz succeeds to clarify audience the presence of someone manipulating the whole situation, namely Charmatz himself. Audience is no longer in control of the situation, and there is no other way but to surrender to receive what Charmatz offers, as the dancers do. This anxiety of being manipulated is so strong that some of the audience members start to look around to see where the “god” is sitting in the theatre. The machines keep manipulating bodies in surrender, eventually placing them on top of the conveyer belt and the pumping platform. The conveyer belt provokes rolling movement to the bodies and the platform forces shaking movement, which are both typical of contemporary dance technique. There is clearly a dance going on to the bodies, manipulated by machines that are controlled by the choreographer. In this opening scene, Charmatz suggests the idea of dance without any intension of performers on stage. There is no life to make dance happen, as if it is a statement against existentialism. Instead, there is a structure, and system to make the bodies dance. Which perhaps, is a definition of choreography.

From this seemingly hopeless situation, more dancers enter the stage with a child in their arms. Children are surrendered as the dancers were in the beginning. Dancers start to manipulate children to make them dance, shaking, rolling or lifting. This manipulation seems brutal to children, and a hint of pedophilia makes it slightly uncomfortable to watch. However as the time goes, audience starts to be aware of the trust children have to manipulators. It is obvious children are trained for this, and strong discipline from children creates certain comfort. The children are peacefully sleeping, as if they are flying in their dreams, and trained dancers know how to take care of children’s body. Manipulations are happening very gracefully, interacting in rhizome. Whole scene seems to be poetic and under control, and audience is relieved. There is one thing to notice, is that by manipulating children, habits of dancers movement choice becomes apparent. As Chamatz suggested in the opening scene, dancer’s manipulations are still within the framework of contemporary dance, and sort of forcing children to behave in that framework. And we know, that it is not how children would make choices on their own. One can say that the relief at this moment is coming from the maintained discipline or rules of stage performance. In other words, comfortable cliche of dance.

Soundscape comes in and the physical energy builds up. Dancers starts to involve in vocalistic approach as well. They reach the peak of celebration singing chorale, then children slowly starts to wake up. They would start to copy adults’ movement, and also starts proposing their organic movement choices. As soon as children starts moving, they completely take over the stage space, almost leaving adults only to follow and copy them. Movements of children are so unique and unclassifiable, it creates obvious contrast against dancers and choreographers choices. While trained dancers remain sort of safe in choices they make, children’s chaotic movement suggestion and unintended composition are powerful. By placing their bodies together on stage, Charmatz emphasises habits and discourse of contemporary dance, and reveals the fact that it is powerless in front of pure physicality. Dancers are trying to dance, and children are playing game. In this scenario, the game is far more interesting than the dance. They have no intention of performing, or creating illusion on stage, instead, there is simple and real interaction.

A bag pipe player enters on stage and everyone starts following him. In the context of this work, bag pipe clearly implicates sense of death, and all the performers merge to create chaos. Out of this chaos, death arrives to adults, and their role is reversed with children. Adult’s bodies are left on the floor and they are troublesome. Children’s commitment to manipulate adults corpse have almost no aesthetic awareness, yet this inverted action of manipulation has strong emotional appeal. Children are doing what they are supposed to do, in their timing. There is no hesitation, judgement, or obsession. Eventually children manages to make adults exit the stage, and the corpse of bag pipe player remains on stage. The crane picks him up and hangs him upside down, manipulation of the death is briefly suggested, to end the piece.

In this master piece for 26 children, 9 adults and 3 machines, Charmatz successfully deconstructs opposing relationships by intervention by the others. He slips in the game in the discourse of Dance/Non-dance, the machines between the bodies of Adult/Child, children’s spontaneous decisions between Illusion/Reality and so on, to suggest issues by avoiding to suggest them directly. However, the biggest issue he is revealing is clotted cliche of dance which we tend to rely on, and he does so by using the contrast between trained dancers and unpredictable body of children. When the children are freed from the trained dancer’s movement habits, their energy explodes, making them completely a stranger on stage. By seeing that, we cannot avoid to realise what is the illusion and reality, and our expectation towards realistic fiction. It is evident that fictional aspect is a weak point in creative process, as it requires pre-established ignorance from audience. And these layer of thoughts makes us question the cultural assumption which doesn’t accept children’s random movement as valuable as trained dancers movements. This question is openly asked by Charmatz by his aesthetic choice of putting everything and everyone in black, minimalistic surface. He tries to eliminate unnecessary information, to bring the focus on what is underneath the black surface.

To be in sync with children’s flow of imagination and physical expression, might be a way to be connected to what the body is in relation with the nature. Anyway, wasn’t that the purpose of dance at our source? Displaying different options of how to exist inside the framework of choreography, Charmatz reminds us the importance of resonance with the others. To touch is crucial means of receiving information, and manipulation that occurs throughout Enfant reminds us of the feeling to touch and be touched. There, Charmatz decides to let the touch be direct. The resonance that goes through the body of children opens up for the audiences as well, making us all feel like the children. Enfant is a work that might be a project of reminding us the revolution to totality.

(seen on Oct. 29, 2014, in Dansens Hus, Stockholm)



  1. Manifesto for dancing museum by Boris Charmatz  http://www.borischarmatz.org/en/lire/manifesto-dancing-museum

Interview, on Enfant by Boris Charmatz  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFGuryku65A

Trailer https://vimeo.com/66306726



ボリス・シャルマッツ「子供」  (2016年1月、修士課程の書類選考のために書いた同作品のレビュー)

ボリス・シャルマッツは近年もっとも評価されているコレオグラファーの一人である。レンヌ・ブルターニュ国立振付センターを2009年に任され、組織構造の改編に取り組む。その結果オープンした「ミュゼ・ドゥ・ラ・ダンス」はシャルマッツ曰く「国立振付センターに通常課された全てのタスクをミックスした上で、古くありながら新しく ユーモアがありつつ古臭く 埃っぽくも刺激的な枠組みの中で撹拌する事を提案する、世界に類を見ないミュージアム」(1)との事だ。既存のダンスの文脈を脱構築する事を狙いつづけるシャルマッツは、現在のダンス・シーンのもっとも重要な存在の一人である。そんな彼の2011年作品「子供」は26人の子供たちと共に、我々観客が歴史から受け継いだ、文化的固定観念に基づく潜在的なスノビズムを暴露する作品である。



サウンドスケープが介入し、身体的なエネルギーも高まっていく。ダンサー達は声も使い始める。彼らの祝祭はコーラスによって極致に達し、子供達は目覚め始める。子供達は大人達の動きをコピーしたり、逆に自分たちの自然な動きを提案し始める。子供達が動き始めるや否や、舞台上は彼らに占領され、大人達は子供達をひたすら追いかけコピーする以外なにもできなくなる。子供達の動きは多様かつ分類不可能で、ダンサーやコレオグラファーの動きのチョイスとは全く異なる事が露呈する。 訓練されたダンサーたちが比較的安全な選択にとどまっていた反面、子供達の混沌とした動きの提案や意図されていない構成は非常に力強い。彼らの身体を同時に舞台にあげる事で、シャルマッツはコンテンポラリーダンスの癖や言説を強調し、純粋な身体性の前でそれらがいかに無力かを露呈させる。ダンサーたちはダンスを踊ろうとし、子供たちはゲームを楽しんでいる。この場合、ゲームは圧倒的にダンスより魅力的だ。子供たちは演じる事も、イリュージョンを舞台上に現出させる事も頭になく、そこにあるのはただシンプルで現実的なやりとりである。





(2014年10月29日 ダンセンス・フュス ストックホルムにて鑑賞)


(1)ミュゼ・ドゥ・ラ・ダンスのためのマニフェスト  http://www.borischarmatz.org/en/lire/manifesto-dancing-museum

「子供」に関するボリス・シャルマッツのインタビュー  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFGuryku65A

作品トレイラー映像 https://vimeo.com/66306726