Early in 2018, Compagnie Jean-Claude Gallotta from Grenoble celebrated an enormous success with the German premiere of MY ROCK at the Bonn opera, followed by an extensive tour. In the second part, the company explores the topic of women in the rock business, with the same resounding success.
“In the early 1950s, a new musical genre emerged in the USA, a combination of rhythm and blues and country music. It is called rock’ n’ roll, an expression that American musicians used to mean ‘having sex’, an early indication of how much this music was going to liberate manners, even beyond the stage, and to fill a whole generation with new life. These outrageous new rhythms were the companions of the dreams of my youth. Perhaps they helped me to conquer my existential anxiety disorder and provided an answer to my question: What am I going to do with my life? Rock music helped me to bear my loneliness, to find kindred spirits and it elevated me with its wild lust for life.” This is how one of the most prominent representatives of French dance, Jean-Claude Gallotta, describes the intentions underlying his choreographies on the topic of rock’ n’ roll. “Rock was a part of my teenage world… It helped me to escape my existential anxiety.”
“So, the story of rock music is a male story. Testosterone-boosted concerts, music that sounds like it was squeezed into too-tight jeans, cometlike fates of heroes. Women were reduced to doting muses, secret icons or manipulative mistresses. This shows how much the first female rockers had to risk if they wanted to break the boundaries of their attributed roles. Their path into rock music was like breaking through a stone wall, with stubborn strikes, with obstinacy, boldness, excess, offensiveness, with roaring cords and poetic lyrics. They could not afford to be squeamish when it came to fighting for their rights – musical excesses, genius, transgender games and trance were not uncommon. Some of them crashed into a closed door, the door that led their male counterparts to success and recognition, and faded into obscurity.” The ones who made it, like Brenda Lee, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and their heiresses, were liberated women in terms of their voices, their bodies, their ways of life and their sexual orientation. This is what Jean-Claude Gallotta’s work MY LADIES ROCK deals with. MY LADIES ROCK talks about a kind of rock that may not be quite as frequently in the spotlight as its male counterpart, but is just as fruitful – and perhaps even more exciting, because it is linked to the current struggle for women’s rights, a struggle that is far from over.
Jean-Claude Gallotta, born in Grenoble in 1950, initially studied visual arts, before he discovered dance as his medium, together with Mathilde Altaraz. He went on to study ballet and tap dance as well as contemporary dance techniques. In New York, he was inspired by the art of Merce Cunningham, Bob Wilson and other post-modern greats, in which the separation between dance, opera and theatre was increasingly removed. In 1979, Gallotta and Mathilde Altaraz were joined by dancers, actors and other artists in founding Groupe Émile Dubois. Beyond his own group, he has choreographed pieces for Lyon Opera Ballet and Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris. His works have toured world-wide.
Jean-Claude Gallotta is happiest when he far away from the crowds. If you are looking for the choreographer, you will find him on the periphery of the Alps in Southern France: Maison de la Culture de Grenoble is located in a picturesque no-man’s land on the city’s outskirts. Gallotta established the Centre Chorégraphique National (CGN) in one part of the bulky building from the 1960s. For many years now, the shy choreographer has resided here with his company Groupe Émile Dubois, staging a performative revolt far away from the Parisian theatre-hype. “I dance because I don’t understand life beyond the stage”, a young blond dancer says to the audience in one of Gallotta’s works. “I dance because it is all I know”, a grey-haired dancer explains. Experience is part of Gallotta’s aesthetic concept. When his dancers describe what motivates them to get onstage, they talk exclusively about their personal stories, about their very own experiences. Jean-Claude Gallotta loves simplicity, “Simplicité”, the French word sounds so natural when he cites it as a response to over-abundance and a world of pretence. The choreographer and dancer sees this reduction as a political gesture. What does dance mean to Jean-Claude Gallotta? “It may be nothing – except to live.” There it is, the natural merging of stage world and reality that permits no machinery, as if Gallotta wanted to arrange life without any of its artificiality.
Coproduction with Maison de la Culture de Bourges, Théâtre du Rond Point, Théâtre de Caen, CNDC d’Angers, Châteauvallon, scène nationale & supported by MC2: Grenoble