Today we completed our second week of classes at the school. Again, we performed a short improvisation – this time in groups of 7. The game had been ratcheted up with a surreal addition – an invisible man. I found the situation more difficult and eventually felt less attached to our creation – this feeling played into the final performance. I hope my teammates were happier with their results. I have certainly seen great improvement in the work of the other students whose pieces I could watch.
Later this afternoon the second-year students performed pieces they has spent the first 2 weeks creating – each was devoted to a film and each was an extraordinary piece of physical theater. Using sound, movement, and small bits of language, 4 films (Psycho, Volver, Apocalypse Now, and Blue Velvet) were brought to vivid life by teams of 8 and 9 students. They used their bodies to create staircases, helicopters, and abstracted emotions. I think the teachers were less impressed, but, apparently, a positive critique is rare and muted when it occurs.
The class work goes on each day, movement, auto-cours (self work) and improvisation. Much of it is still quite a struggle and still deliciously fun. One movement class was devoted entirely to childhood games. I learned games from around the world. We ended with a small performance that captured and fear and joy performing for your parents in grade school. The improvisation courses this week focused on varying rhythm and creating mounting tension in the piece. Because there are so many students, not everyone gets a chance to ‘jouer’. I don’t know whether I am relieved or annoyed when there isn’t time for me to take my turn.
The LEM course has also been invigorating. The work so far is architectural – creating simple structures with wood ‘baguettes’, string, and cardboard. Pascale Lecoq (our teacher and Jacques’ daughter) has been explaining the basics of tensile structure and the expression of objects in space – at least I think she has. The language is still an obstacle. I catch words here and there and on occasion an entire sentence but the moment-by-moment effort to comprehend is exhausting. Even building the simple structures with hot melt glue and wood – an area I should feel completely comfortable in – is a struggle. Sometimes I miss a key work – often it is ‘don’t’. In french, the negation is ‘Pas’ as in ‘Pas le construire comme celle ci!’ (Don’t build it like that!). I am usually so delighted to understand the bulk of the sentence that I miss the first word and end up doing the opposite of what has been asked.
A week ago on Friday evening – most of the school met at the bar across the street – the regular hangout. (Rue Fauborg St. Denis is a riot of ethnic food, swank restaurants, noisy bars, and enormous food markets; a stunningly perfect Art Nouveau bistro sits between 2 boutiques devoted to African hair accessories.) After a number of beers and ‘sante’s to the new year and the new class, the party moved uptown to Montmartre to a small garret. The theme was 1920s Paris and I truly felt I was in either Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ or regaling Hemingway and Picasso creating a scene for Woody Allen’s recent film. Dozens of half empty bottles of red wine shared the table with a forlorn bottle of Jagermeister. Every actor seemed to be sporting a pencil mustache and a jaunty scarf and several of the girls had managed to snag a twenties dress. The air was almost solid with cigarette smoke. I stayed late enough to miss the last Metro but some Paris-savvy fellow students were able to point me the way and I walked home through a mostly silent Paris.