Luc Jacobs is a dance artist from Belgium, working in the business of practising spontaneity, creativity and finding pleasure in movement, serving the work of Batsheva Dance Company as Senior Rehearsal Director since 2010.
Luc Jacobs speaks with Ezekiel Oliveira via email on the upcoming production Decadance at da:ns festival, and his interest in the plural responsibility of dance makers raising the refinement of audiences.
The early beginnings of Gaga and its world defusion; Ohad Naharin’s enchantment with movement and perpetual mode of creation and lastly, conceiving dance for a truly global audience; framing culture and shaping thinking.
Luc joined Batsheva Dance Company in 2002 after a prosperous career dancing with Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium, Deutsche Oper Berlin as well as Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. In 2005 he was elected rehearsal director and ballet teacher of Batsheva Dance Company.
Ezekiel: In your opinion, how did Gaga start and how much has changed since the early days?
Luc Jacobs: I suppose Gaga started because of countless reasons. One way to talk about it is that Ohad’s love of movement is so immense, it would be impossible to contain it to himself. There was a need to share his world more directly. A wish to communicate to people about his movement language, and to expedite bringing them into it.
Over the years Gaga has become more sophisticated and elaborate. Nowadays we have more vocabulary and tools in the sense of tasks and exercises that function as gateways or keys to explore movement and its range of qualities. And this process will keep unfolding itself.
Ezekiel: Some people think that Gaga is constructed to build up the dancers confidence. What do you think about unconfidence? How do you handle it within the company?
Luc Jacobs: When people start to work with their body in a way that asks for a deep listening, such as in Gaga but not only, the body begins to be a home, a resource and inspiration, and eventually a celebration. That automatically brings about a certain confidence.
I am not implying that we are all free from a lack of confidence around the clock, but the climate in Batsheva is such that a lot of the time we are thrown into unfamiliar situations … by a schedule that is erratic; Ohad being in a constant mode of creation; having to cope with unexpected injuries and so forth. People start to realise that a lack of confidence does not prevent them from dealing with those situations. So I don’t really see any problems there.
Ezekiel: When the company is creating a new dance piece, do you consider your audience globally or do you create work thinking of the viewers at home, in Israel?
Luc Jacobs: During the creation of a new work, we view the process as a playground, in which we invent rules to play. Then eventually we meet the audience at a level that is both global, individual and local so to speak.
Global in the sense that we communicate at a level that is beyond a person’s religious, political and national inclinations, but at the same time personal because the meeting takes place thanks to the availability, intelligence, sensitivity, and so forth that we all share as human beings.
In some cases, we, of course, think about what we offer locally. For example, some works contain text, which we would translate to the commonly spoken language of that particular country, but on the whole, we don’t think of it as creating for an Israeli audience.
“After all, the beauty of dance is not bound by language or nationality.”
Ezekiel Oliveira: What is your relationship with movement at this stage in your life?
Luc Jacobs: I consider movement not only as something we do but something we are, at least at the relative level. Meaning that movement is happening at every level, whether we accept it or not. Part of a dancers investigation and training, especially in Batsheva, is to become available to that happening. To not stand in the way of that happening, but to discover and play with it. You could say we are in the business of practising spontaneity. Ultimately, however, movement doesn’t really exist, but that is a topic that goes beyond the domain of this conversation.
Ezekiel: How would you describe your relationship with Ohad and company of dancers?
Luc Jacobs: My relationship is such that I try and serve the work we do, and the work is our love we share for dance, movement and creativity.
Ezekiel: I would like to understand how the dancers explore pleasure in the choreographic works?
Luc Jacobs: In Ohad’s work, we often say things such as ‘finding pleasure in movement’, or ‘connecting effort to pleasure’, but it might be useful to suggest that pleasure is a by-product of being in the moment. It is the result of being in the body in an unmediated way, with an attitude of listening, not like a doctor listening to a patient’s lung condition but more akin to the curiosity of an 8-year-old kid opening its longed for Christmas gift. The moment one becomes willing to let go, let go into movement, let go of imposed boundaries, anything can happen. I think letting go has a lot to do with pleasure. Of course in order to let go, one must learn to discover what it means to hold on. One can not let go unless one is holding on.
Ezekiel: What are your thoughts and feelings about this generation of choreographers – inseparably connected to Batsheva’s research worldwide exploring Gaga?
Luc Jacobs: I think it is inevitable. Batsheva has no patent on human wisdom and movement. There are dancers that are phenomenal Gaga dancers but did not take a Gaga class in their life. Obviously thanks to the success and fame of Ohad, many people have access to Gaga and our repertoire nowadays, and are undoubtedly influenced to some degree. Why not I say? Let’s cross pollinate worldwide.
Ezekiel: How did your enquiry into choreography advanced since you arrived at the company, and moved from ballet master to senior rehearsal director?
Luc Jacobs: I think my enquiry into choreography has transformed more into what is a work about, rather than what I want to say with it.
We could say that a work has its own life, its own message, not other than what is says, not as a symbol for anything other than itself.
In other words, it is the felt sense I have become more interested in, and its relationship to form and space.
I find that the state of mind a work originates from, and the state of mind it could evoke in a viewer has come to play a major role for me. Or to put it differently again, we could say the notion of beauty is essential to me.
Ezekiel: Could you please expand on the subject of beauty?
Luc Jacobs: Here I don’t mean beauty as quality as in purely something pretty and elegant, but rather the experience of beauty itself.
For example the beauty of groove, when it is shining through movement in an utterly liberated way. The beauty when somebody moves with the delicateness, with which one would caress a babies cheek.
The beauty of when somebody moves with so much clarity as if we were looking at a bright winter nights sky, and one sees that entire sky, with all its bright shining stars, all at the same time.
The beauty when one stretches, not like a gymnast would stretch, as in trying to achieve the perfect picture of something, which somebody has told you to do. Trying to force one’s body in a mould, as if it were a piece of inert matter that one has to will into a particular shape, but more like an animal stretching after an afternoon nap.
A stretch that is completely alive saturated with sensation and listening to that sensation. Or to explode into movement, in a way that is un-meditated, unmeasured.
Obviously, to explode could mean different things. One could behave as if one ignites into movement, like sticking a match, or like a guillotine, or a bomb exploding inside water. In moments like this, beauty reveals itself, beyond that, I find myself also occupied with the question of why to create at all?
I think if somebody finds that he or she must create, that person must consider his or her responsibility as an artist. Since a single artist can reach many people at the same time, one should think twice before pouring more garbage onto an audience.
One can not purely think of putting bums on seats alone. One can think about elevating the sophistication of an audience, rather than coming down to it. I don’t mean to imply that the public’s sophistication is low and that the artists somehow is higher. But I feel that art plays a great part in shaping our culture, and it is the culture that shapes our thinking, our relationships, our behaviour.
Ezekiel: Lastly, what can we expect from this performance in Singapore?
Luc Jacobs: Imagine if you will, a series of culinary dishes, all exquisite and unique to one another, and at the same time together forming a coherent whole, leading you through a 70-minute journey of awe, beauty, power, absurdity and disbelief, leaving one totally satisfied and refreshed. Sounds good, does it not?