Le Madison

The position occupied by dancing within a social system varies depending on the culture and the epoch concerned. In general, however, it can be maintained that as an interpersonal physical expression every dance is based on mutual consent between the participants. If this does not apply then the harmony is disturbed. Dancing, whether solo, in a pair or in the group has, though, always been linked to processes of inclusion and exclusion. On stepping onto the dance floor one becomes part of a social structure that follows a predefined set of rules — those taught in the dancing lesson. To dance well means, then, moving the (often standardised) body as smoothly as possible in time with the rhythm of music.

There is dancing in many films, too; in the genre of the musical, where dancing features, the performance is so excellent that it supersedes the diegesis as a matter of course. So, too, in Jean-Luc Godard's film Bande à Part (1964) the dance functions as an element intended to 'interrupt' the narrative flow, to make the medium of film with its possibilities visible. In this example it functions particularly elegantly via the soundtrack, which is comprised of three parts: music, dance sounds and a voice-over narrative. The latter takes over when the music ceases, but the tact is retained in the sound of the protagonists' dancing and the snapping of fingers. For the now famous dance scene, performed by Anna Karina, Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur and to which Quentin Tarentino devoted a homage in Pulp Fiction, Godard selected a group dance that emerged back at the end of the 1950s, Le Madison, which stood both as a symbol of coolness as well as for the socio-political changes of the 1960s.

Dancing is usually bound to a specific location. If dancing starts spontaneously in a location where it has not been envisaged then the space itself becomes an event. What happens, then, when an event is controlled or stage-managed from the outset? This is the question that Annja Krautgasser pursues in several ways in her re-enactment of the sequence originally by Godard. While she transfers the filmic scene into a performative proactive space by installing her dance course there so that it is, or becomes, an exhibition space, she also documents the 'event' that happens in the room. By recording the entire scenario she also goes on — analogue to the film scene — to reveal the mechanisms of stage-management and challenges the progressively dissolute interactive relationship here between the performers and the audience. In doing so, Le Madison proves to be not merely a simple quotation but also a complex artistic documentation based on extensive research.
(Dietmar Schwärzler; Translation: Jonathan Quinn)