Choreografe en danseres Alix Eynaudi woont sinds een jaar in Wenen, maar verbleef daarvoor achttien jaar in Brussel. Ze volgde in haar jeugd een balletopleiding aan de Opéra de Paris, maar hoorde nadien tot de eerste lichting van de P.A.R.T.S.-dansschool, en danste van 1996 tot 2002 bij Rosas. Tussen haar performances voor Superamas en Kris Verdonck door maakte ze ook eigen werk – zoals Supernaturel (2007),Long long short long short (2008) en nu dusMonique. Alix Eynaudi: “Ik wilde dit keer een duet maken met een man. Dat werd Mark Lorimer (Rosas, ZOO). Samen onderzochten we manieren en praktijken waarmee koppels met elkaar interageren. Ik wilde op een heel intense manier met Mark dansen. Zo kwamen we bij bondage terecht.”
Alix Eynaudi: We waren absolute amateurs, dus moesten we onderzoek doen. Eerst hebben we ons zelfs met een fake e-mailadres op sm-websites begeven. We schreven dan op het forum dat we kunstenaars waren die research deden. “Jaja, dat zal wel,” was het antwoord. “Wij zijn ook allemaal kunstenaars.” Uiteindelijk hebben we met een experte gepraat en een demonstratie gekregen. Daaruit bleek snel dat mensen die aan bondage doen geen toneeltje spelen. Ze willen het graag, en ze doen het met veel toewijding.
Wat zou de relatie tussen dans en bondage kunnen zijn?
Eynaudi: Volgens mij heeft iedereen wel op de een of andere onbewuste manier een relatie met bondage. Voor mij had het zelfs iets autobiografisch. Als je als negenjarige aan de Opéra de Paris de hele dag met je lichaam bezig bent, dan heeft die intense fysieke praktijk een impact. Natuurlijk doen we op het podium niet aan bondage, we gebruiken elementen. Maar we maken er ook geen volledige abstractie van. Het blijft een sensuele performance. Spanning is er altijd als een man en een vrouw op de scène dansen.
De twee sleutelwoorden die tijdens de repetities belangrijk bleven, zijn ‘werk’ en ‘zorg’. Op de scène lijkt het alsof we routiniers zijn, omdat we zoals in bondage toegewijd ons werk doen. Bij bondage komt heel veel zorgzaamheid kijken.
In het stuk zit ook humor. Onvermijdelijk?
Eynaudi: We spelen met de machtsverhoudingen die bij bondage aan de orde zijn. In al mijn creaties behandel ik onderwerpen die me echt interesseren, maar dan op een wat oneerbiedige manier. Er wordt mee gelachen, maar ik toon ook dat ik ervan hou. Theater creëert een ruimte waarin je dingen gelooft waarin je anders niet zou geloven. Om de ‘joyful state‘ van dat spel is het me te doen.
Bondage heeft een fetisjistisch aspect dat we doortrekken in de kostuums van An Breugelmans. Je kunt je liefde zelfs richten op zaken die zo immaterieel zijn als de opeenvolging van noten in de muziek van Brahms of van Conlon Nancarrow die we in de voorstelling gebruiken.
In this short essay we consider Monique as a (set of) space(s), in two ways. Firstly,
there’s the scene: the space the public sees when they enter. Lastly, we deal with the
spaces that are formed in and through the bodies on stage: the bodies of Alix Eynaudi
and Mark Lorimer, but also through a loudspeaker that is tied up, as if it were also a
As to the religious consciousness of the Greeks, if a couple forms it is because the two
deities are on the same plane, because their actions are applied to the same realm of
reality, because they assume related functions. Concerning Hestia, there is no possible
doubt: her significance is transparent, her role strictly defined. While her lot is
enthronement; forever motionless in the centre of domestic space, that of Hestia implies,
in solidarity and contrast, the swift god who rules over the realm of the traveller. With
Hestia, it’s the inside, the closed, the fixed, the decline of the human clan in itself; with
Hermès, it’s the outside, the opening, the mobility, the contact with those other than
oneself. We can say that the Hestia-Hermes couple expresses, in its polarity, the tension
that is notable in the archaic representation of space: space requires a centre, a fixed
point, a privileged value, from which we can orient and define directions, all qualitatively
different; but at the same time, space appears to be a place of movement, which implies
a possibility of transition and of passage from any one point to another. (Jean-Pierre
First there is the scene. During the creation of Monique, I often thought about the
atmosphere that typifies the part of a house where the household tasks are performed.
Sewing, for example, or washing or ironing, the house and the things it contains,
maintains or provides, as well as: taking care of each other. You do not immediately
expect such activities to occur on a stage where there is dancing. If there’s something
special happening at home, and a dance is something special, such places are usually
avoided. Home is not often the place for dancing, anyway, unless there is an upbeat
atmosphere, or just to be crazy without others noticing. Monique would nevertheless not
register as largely domestic (read: having that kind of homely atmosphere where sewing,
washing and ironing go on, and where everyone cares for each other), I always thought.
The pace of many of its movements is reminiscent of that of domestic operations.
Although only some of these movements recur, they suggest something of a routine. A
head is being cradled, or two legs are being swung back and forth. A foot seems to be
getting measured. A part of a costume is being adjusted.
The use of bondage and SM practices as a source of inspiration only partly aims at their
most striking aspect – the erotic. Certainly as important is the degree of caring that such 2
practices assume, for each other and for the material with which they work. When the
audience enters Monique, Alix is filing and clipping Mark’s nails and moustache, while
Mark reads a book. What happens on stage looks like a private scene. Thus, the gaze
shifts from one that watches dance to one that could just as well be seeing theatre.
Indeed, we are looking at a relatively small spot on the stage, where two people enact a
play (although the theatre they are bringing coincides with the dance itself, or better, the
preparations of such: Mark’s nails have to be filed so that the two cannot hurt one
In his essay of 2002, ‘The meanings of domesticity’, philosopher Bart Verschaffel takes
up the complex relationship between domesticity and femininity. He refers to the Greek
gods Hermes and Hestia, and how Jean-Pierre Vernant, a historian and anthropologist,
describes this divine couple. Where Hestia is the goddess of the hearth, immutability
and certainty, Hermes is the god of movement, change, exchange, correspondence,
travel and communication. This pair of gods makes the meaning of domesticity and its
equation with femininity, traditionally ambiguous. While the place of women in domestic
scenes is too often quickly associated with Hestia’s living space in the centre of the
house, Bart Verschaffel indicates the fact that even indoors Hestia cannot do without
Hermes, and that therefore the relationship between femininity and domesticity is much
more complex. He shows this by means of artworks featuring female characters he sees
materialising in 17th century images of Dutch interiors, and in a 19th century painting by
the Antwerp painter Henri De Braeckeleer. The women who appear in these interiors are
much more complex than merely devotional representations of female virtue, Verschaffel
discovers. Many of the characters are not only positioned against the ‘distance’, but they
can also associate with it. This is suggested by the architecture of the houses in which
they live or work, through windows, doors and thresholds.
In Monique a man and a woman stand together on stage. Sometimes one of the two
looks at the other, as if dancing a dance, in reduced form, performed for a certain
someone else, of the opposite sex. And there is that slightly-too-small blue cloudy sky,
an old piece of cloth that hangs there unmoving for a long time, until at the end of the
performance it goes dark, and Brahms plays. The domesticity then differs radically, to an
outside view. The antipode of Brahms booms, and the light too. Monique goes outside,
where it thunders and quivers. The blue cloudy sky is a premature nocturnal landscape.
Something was afoot, because earlier even the stereo speaker started moving.
Very quickly, in the realm of Hestia, everything begins to shift. Here the dance turns
back to where there was no place for her. No dancing in the living room, and certainly
not in the wardrobe or laundry room! Monique is constantly shuttling between a homely
and a restless pace. Alix and Mark sit quietly together before they begin to dance. Also,
in the dance itself, a kind of homely geniality succeeds in removing the danger that
many of the movements carry within them. From this perspective, Monique is an
elongated back-and-forth swaying between the sphere of influence of Hestia and
Hermes. It lies in the movements themselves. Flipping each other over, tilting each
other, undoing an imaginary knot… the bodies themselves refer to small, routine 3
movements that usually occur indoors. But there is as well the sound of Nancarrow’s
strange machinal (and therefore touching) piano music, and in many of these
movements danger lurks.
That back-and-forth movement is nothing new, as Bart Verschaffel informs us, because
to the Greeks, Hestia and Hermes were already an inseparable divine couple. What is
new, or contemporary, if you will, is the endless pace of that shuttling. Hestia and
Hermes are no longer two clearly distinct gods, no; Monique lets them dance together
until their heads start to spin. Just for a second, because Monique is no iconoclast.
Nothing is exposed or refuted; nothing or no one wins the dance. In the curtain that
hangs in the background, finally lurks the double movement. It is clearly a curtain – thick,
with the folds still in, a bit dirty. When the light shines on it, it is first and foremost a piece
of fabric, to most contemporary eyes. Even so, however, the cloudy sky makes for a
distance, and thus for imagination. And it can take on very many different forms, as
shown over the course of the performance.
At the end of Monique, the Brahms that sounds like a euphoric thundercloud rolling over
a scene of eroticism and horror, is no climax, nor is it something destructive. Rather, it’s
yet another counterpoint within the performance, which once again reveals that this is
not about timeless truths about dance, theatre, or even man and wife. The game in
which we play out these sorts of truths against each other is timeless. As timeless,
perhaps, as Hestia and Hermes having always been an inseparable couple indoors, and
so it shall be. In that sense Monique also brings tranquillity. Nothing or no one here
takes up radical propositions, and smiles occur more than once, as at times what’s seen
on stage also just looks ludicrous.
This essay has been very well mannered so far, every Monique spectator would agree.
Monique would not be Monique if we had refrained from talking about its kinky sides. In
sadomasochism there are rigid hierarchies. Masters and slaves, being tied up, small
cages… In a cheap paradox, that becomes: Hestia goes into overdrive. The role-playing
that in many an SM torture chamber is played-out, only exists by virtue of a longing for
clear, premodern hierarchies. It is also this tension, perhaps, that is played-out in SM
rituals or bondage. In these rituals the mistress appropriates a male role, and the spaces
in which she receives customers at home are hung full with ingenious household gear
The ties, the threads that are woven and that weave between conducting bodies and
conduits are acting sustainably; they are not waiting to be invested with meaning or soul
or spirit, they are the reality of bodies that the music binds, assembles, shapes,
composes and removes. That is to say, fictionalised. (Peter Szendy)4
We conclude with the bodies on stage. At first sight there are two bodies on view, those
of Alix Eynaudi and Mark Lorimer, but maybe there are a lot more. How does a
loudspeaker, for example, see itself? Or a high figure in the twilight, from which two little
lights shine – are they eyes? – lights? Or a shape that moves and resembles a pine tree?
It seems that Monique shows her audience a multitude of bodies that (whether or not
constricted) all interact.
In his Membres fantômes. Des corps musiciens (Phantom limbs. Musical bodies) from
2002, Peter Szendy queries the history of organology as a discipline that moulds all
bodies which generate sound. Szendy suggests that a music-making body – a corps
musicien, which is a living body, can also be a musical instrument – itself a space where
music can be played. He thereby handily refers to the double meaning of the word
organology, which not only defines a learning tool, but also the organs and their
functions in the body. A special feature of a body is that it can be linked with other
bodies, and also with itself.
A crucial moment in the history of instrument theory is the discovery of electricity. The
moment electricity was discovered, the body did not need to be touched to be played.
Szendy devotes the last two chapters of his book to the consequences thereof. Among
other things, he talks about the conductor and the way in which he steers the other
musicians with his movements. Finally, through the writings of Freud and Adorno, he
also discusses the emergence of crowds. What happens between people the moment
they form a mass is perhaps not fundamentally different from what electricity is able to
do: there occurs something intangible (without necessarily having to be grand or
sublime) between all those people.
Szendy is not only concerned with music, he also writes briefly about dance and theatre.
It is often professed that we would appropriate the spaces where we play and dance as
a kind of extension of our own bodies. According to Szendy, however, the reverse is
true: man himself is only sonorous, or a maker of music, inasmuch as he is an
instrument. This applies to music as well as to dance and theatre. In summary, Szendy
reacts against any sense of nostalgia for a body that would not yet be instrumentalised,
as well as against an (all too confident) anthropocentric perspective on the history of
dance and theatre and its spaces.
Rather than being a body, we usually talk about having a body. In Monique it is clear
that many things on stage have a body, and between all these bodies a constant
electricity hangs in the air. A speaker from which music emanates seems to be tied up,
Mark is bundled-up and driven around to the strains of a beautiful piece of Brahms that
enwraps the body, a composition written by Gerard Pesson, and at the end of the piece
we see and hear music by Brahms himself.
Monique has something animistic about it. Not only does Conlon Nancarrow’s piano
music start to stir as if spontaneous (Nancarrow had more confidence in electricity than
in human hands, and had his music set on piano rolls), the cloudy heavens hanging in 5
the background come to life due to the lighting effects in the last scene. Conversely, the
dancers regularly behave like animals. It’s not at all dramatic — Mark and Alix look at
each other quietly while they do this, as if they were doing things that might happen
every day in a living room (even though these things appear a little kinky).
Peter Szendy, Membres fantômes. Des corps musiciens, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris,
Jean-Pierre Vernant, ‘Hestia-Hermes. Sur l’expression religieuse de l’espace et du
mouvement chez les Grecs’, in: Jean-Pierre Vernant, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, La Grece
ancienne, 2. L’espace et le temps, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1991, pp. 47-99.
Bart Verschaffel, ‘The meanings of domesticity’, The Journal of Architecture, Vol. 7,
Autumn 2002, pp. 287-296.