Biribi

Programming /Dance – to stage

Naughty story tonight
sorry – too bad.

Not all stories are pretty – besides, pretty stories?

Biribi‘s story is accurate – it is historical. It is ugly as men can be ugly, stupid and mean, with a daily cruelty that doesn’t even make you vomit anymore.

I’m selling it wrong, aren’t I, this story?
well, well, too bad, too bad.

It’s such a rotten story that I can’t see it being staged at all in theatrical form. People who want cruelty will read Biribi.
No – this one I see being staged using Capoeira.

It would therefore be a creative commission.

Capoeira, maybe you don’t know? is a martial dance. I don’t see how else to explain it to you.
It is the very old dance of the slaves of the Caribbean and Brazil, which stages their fights in a very explicit way.
It’s a very extraordinary dance to dance – I swear, I’ve tried.
For your initiation, the Capoeira teacher will ask you to move your torso – but only the torso – not the rest. So I had no idea what to do – all the others were like me – and we all stood there, splendidly planted like stakes – and those stakes were the slaves who had to wait for the master’s orders – our Capoeira teacher was a great guy –
And when he came to show us how to move only the bust – then it works.
Without him, it would be impossible to do it again – it’s a very, very technical dance – and it requires a lot of muscle building … at least impressive.

Can you see what these dancers are capable of?
Frankly, I find them so impressive that I want definitely to see them on stage more & more & more.
And often, for Capoeira, the problem is that there is no support – not really a show – I only know of two companies that work more in the performing arts option and they are very small companies.

How to develop? By going out and finding stories for Capoeira.
So Biribi.

It sounds cute, though, Biribi?
And then not at all.
Biribi is not a person. Biribi is the name given to the French military prison camps in North Africa.

There was a lot of Biribi.
Going there meant dying quickly – but not before very, very long days of forced labor, crushing revolts with unbearable cruelty and ideas of torture… unbelievable.

Some French authors have testified to what they saw. The book that made me want to see all this in a danced form is called Biribi, it was written by Albert Londres – subtitled: Dante had seen nothing.

Albert Londres, in a French Biribi

It’s an atrocious read.
You learn how you end up there: did you miss your train ticket?
You were judged a coward in battle?
Did you steal an officer?
Did you answer with insolence?
Your beautiful friend is too beautiful?

The first sentence was often said light: 10 months, 15 months – it’s okay, in a lifetime, a little more than a year, what’s that?
But it was impossible to behave well in these prisons – Albert Londres even had the impression that everything was done to provoke the prisoners’ anger and madness.
Then, one or the other would rebel – and he would go back for 3 years – 5 years – 10 years – we are not stingy with sentences in France, we can’t be stingy all the time.

There are so many scenes of confrontation in this book that don’t need words to be told – just dance them – with Capoeira.

There are no happy endings in Biribi – how could there be? Albert Londres himself had great difficulty in obtaining the right to write his report and then to publish it.

He could be portrayed on stage as the one who provides the narrative link between the scenes – and thus give meaning and coherence to these terrible fights that we would have before our eyes.

As he was an excellent writer, he didn’t speak in a vague way, but he called different prisoners, he told their stories, their arrivals, their tortures, their madness – yes, they were going mad too, everyone was going mad in there, the guards and the prisoners, all of them caught up in a madness made of cruelty, of a feeling of power combined with the feeling of having arrived at the bottom of hell, from which there is no escape.

Then it becomes possible, thanks to this book, to have characters on stage, well identified characters – and this too is a necessity to invent a show that should amaze the spectators.

As for the end… I’m not going to decide everything myself – I’m not lost anywhere after all & I have no choreographic skills. However, yes yes, I want to see a show based on Biribi.

Why?
Because it is a story of true humanity.
Because we are not always great, kind and awesome.
Because it allows Capoeira to be used in an incredible way – and it deserves to be honored, this dance that is more than a dance.

& can you imagine the virtual experiences that go with a show like that?

And then tonight, it was either that or: Excel killed me – how perverse and crazy do you have to be to think that the world is reduced to stupid graphs, without ever wondering how you choose the numbers that will create those stupid graphs that scare the stupids? I’m in a very, very, very bad mood – that’s absolutely true and accurate too.
So, Biribi.

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Featured Image : French prisoner in a Biribi

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