En 1961 Salvador Dalí et Maurice Béjart créent, à La Fenice de Venise, le ballet Gala et l'opéra bouffe La Dame espagnole et le cavalier romain . Le présent ouvrage est le fruit d'une quête des traces photographiques, des témoignages et des documents de ce spectacle. Cette approche critique explore la rencontre du chorégraphe français et du peintre catalan et interroge l'imaginaire qui les rassemble, sans négliger leurs différences. A l'aune de l'érudition littéraire et cinématographique de Béjart et de Dalí, Baudelaire, Apollinaire, Verlaine, Buñuel sont conviés pour comprendre cette rencontre des plus inventives et audacieuses entre un peintre qui fut aussi écrivain et un chorégraphe qui ouvrit la danse autant à la musique concrète qu'à la poésie contemporaine. Entre ces deux hommes, le lecteur est invité à penser les rôles de figures féminines telles celle de la danseuse chorégraphe américaine Loïe Fuller, toute de voiles, celle antique et littéraire de Gradiva, et celle de l'étoile Ludmilla Tchérina, l'interprète de Gala au fait de sa popularité, et auteur de deux romans.
Les approches croisées et pluridisciplinaires analysent l'?uvre dalinienne dans ses dimensions littéraire, fantasmatique autant qu'historique en resituant ces ?uvres au sein de l'histoire de l'art et en saisissant le caractère novateur des happenings ou des effets scéniques. Parfum Nébuleuse , ?il écarquillé, quartier de b?uf, partition chantée : le spectacle est un parcours sensoriel total. Si la critique veut volontiers voir dans les gestes de Dalí des bouffonneries ou fumisteries, les deux auteurs de ce livre prennent à contre-pied cette doxa en démontrant au contraire la cohérence des propositions daliniennes. Loin des lubies, Dalí n'est pas le bouffon que l'on se plaît à voir mais le maître de l'art bouffe.
Sur les pas de ces deux artistes de dimension internationale, le catalogue reproduit des archives inédites du Théâtre de la Monnaie de Bruxelles, de La Fenice, de la maison Guerlain et s'appuie sur les documents d'archives de la danse du Lincoln Center de la bibliothèque de New York. Grâce à la correspondance de Léonide Massine et les films des ballets de Dalí réalisés avec Massine et Balanchine, un historique rigoureux retrace les entrées de Dalí dans la danse.
L'ouvrage situe également le rapport de Dalí avec la danse dans une perspective plus large que la collaboration avec Maurice Béjart. En effet, Dalí produit une grammaire du corps dansant dans les postures figurées à travers ses toiles, ses dessins et ses sculptures : les étirements de Guillaume Tell ou les pas de Gradiva, « celle qui avance ».
Presentation of the book Dalí/Béjart: danser ?Gala?. L'art bouffe de Salvador Dalí, by Frédérique Joseph-Lowery and Isabelle Roussel-Gillet. Ed. Notari, 2007.
In 1961, Salvador Dalí and Maurice Béjart created the ballet Gala , preceded by a baroque opera by Gonfalioneri: La Dame espagnole et le chevalier romain . The show, conceived as ?théâtre total?, was performed in 1961 at La Fenice in Venice and a few months later in the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels and Paris in 1962.
Despite the historic importance of Maurice Béjart and his innovations in choreography, and the importance of this historic collaboration between two major innovators of the 20 th century, no study has ever explored this event whose principal dancer was the famous ballerina La Tcherina. This remarkable artistic creation was also multi-sensorial: the first performance ever to use perfume as the main scenographic element. A renowned partner cooperated in this project: the French Maison Guerlain designed the perfume Nébuleuse specifically for this occasion, at Dalí's request. The name of the perfume is related to Gala's name, the wife of the painter. Big barrels of perfume were installed on the stage, and were representing the essence of femininity. Men on wheelchairs would pull perfume through long vertical crutches which acted as pulleys.
The originality and significance of this book rests in its retrieval of this opus from the annals of history through use of previously unexamined primary documents and a single video recording, to reconstruct the ballet in retrospect. The study presents and explores unpublished photographs from the archives of the Belgian and Italian theaters. The book also presents a CD soundtrack of Dalí's interview, originally recorded on a vinyl LP on the occasion; as well as a reproduction of the detailed program from the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie with a long text by Maurice Béjart. Guerlain's correspondence is also included, giving insight into the collaboration with this famous Parisian house, along with a summary of a diary written by Dalí's foremost American collector, Reynold Morse, both of which cast further light on this extraordinary and historic event.
Contemporary testimonies figure largely in this investigation, as authors Joseph-Lowery and Roussel-Gillet conducted two interviews with Maurice Béjart and the ballet's leading dancer, Maurice Casado in 2007. Using these interviews and the previously unpublished photographs, a precise description of Béjart's choreography for ? Gala ? and its recreation in 2004 and 2006 in Venice and Lausanne are closely examined and evaluated in the context of Béjart's entire career.
Re-evaluation of Dalí's aesthetics in light of his work with choreographers is the most neglected aspect of his career. Dalí's involvement with dance (from 1939 to 1962) had a tremendous impact on his highly celebrated visual art in three major ways. First, representation of the body in his paintings radically changed: it became stretched and elongated, mirroring the bodies of the dancers with whom he worked. Second, paintings he made for the stage became ?classic and religious? long before he dared to show this subject in his easel paintings. Finally, Dalí's stagework became a laboratory for evolution of his painted oeuvre: his paintings began to be gathered in a living Theater Museum (on stage) well in advance of opening his Theater Museum in Figueres. After being a ?miniaturist? (as Breton once called him), Dalí was faced with a new challenge: painting on a grand scale for the stage. This scenographic experience prepared him to work for the big screen ? for Hollywood and Hitchcock. With only one major exception, his script for Luis Buñuel's ( Un chien andalou ), all of Dali's cinematographic projects failed to see the light of day. By contrast, all of his choreographic projects but one were achieved. One must ask why this extremely successful aspect of Dalí's work has been systematically neglected, despite his enormous popularity and the art world's persistent and pervasive interest in presenting him in new and provocative ways.
The book Dali/Béjart: danser ?Gala? brings a missing piece to the puzzle represented by Dalí's performing work. Since Felix Fanes' blockbuster exhibition Dali and the Masses in 2004, (at Fundacio la Caixa, Barcelona) scholarly attention has turned to the larger picture of Dalí's prolific production, not limited to his paintings alone. The exhibition Salvador Dalí: Dream of Venus , mounted at the Queens Museum of Art in 2003, and dedicated to the artist's surrealist Dream of Venus pavilion for the 1939 World's Fair, revealed an astounding installation and spectacle that had remained obscure until then. What has not been studied is how Dali built upon this project (which he rejected due to the numerous logistical and political problems he encountered in its production); and how his first stagings for dance drew upon the Dream of Venus , in ballet after ballet, in order to rectify what the commercial venue had distorted in 1939. The new material presented in Danser Gala also complements the current Dali & Film exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, but gives it a new perspective. The MoMA show does not explore the fact that most of Dalí's cinematographic scripts were inspired by his librettos for ballets and that the main character of the animated movie Destino , a dancer, comes directly from Dalí's ballet Mad Tristan created in New York.
Danser Gala inclusively expands the repertoire of Dalí studies by carefully examining the artist's cross-fertilization of various media. It examines the European archives mentioned above as well as American archives of the period preceding the ballet Gala : clippings of American newspapers and books by choreographers, stage directors and American historians of choreography. Another key but neglected source of material are drawn from the Lincoln Center archives: photographs and two screenings of Mad Tristan and Labyrinth, as well as voluminous correspondence between Dalí and the famed choreographer Leonide Massine. All of this information (composed of summaries of librettos and excerpts of correspondence and librettos) are analyzed and quoted throughout the book and gathered in the final chronological account at the end of the book.
Finally, the approach of this book is pluridisciplinary. Both authors are literary specialists and therefore also address the literary context of the ballets. As demonstrated by the critic Georges Didi-Huberman, the pioneering modern poets Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry discussed the philosophical importance of dance for painting, mainly in the work of the American forerunner of contemporary dance, Loïe Fuller (who was a frequent motif of art deco, dear to Dalí's iconography). This book speaks to that point in the ground-breaking work of Dalí.
Another literary figure essential to Surrealist iconography and theory, Gradiva, is represented in Dalí's painted work and often associated with hysteria. The image of the female dancer becomes the pretext for the larger question regarding the representation of women in Dalí's art. The female dancer nearly crucified in a gigantic eye in the ballet Gala is an image that has been obsessively quoted by journalists and the rare few art historians who mention this ballet. It is symptomatic of the omission of Dali's choreographic work in scholarly and critical studies that this book seeks to overcome. Dalí's overlooked ballets can be considered a blind spot that, once considered, impact most current academic discourses. This blind spot, which speaks to the question of representations of the ?feminine? is at the heart of the authors' examination: not so much to expose the familiar Surrealist image of obscured vision in Gala (notoriously figured in the shocking metaphor of the razor cutting the eye in Un chien andalou ) as to deconstruct the blinding mechanisms in the rare texts on Dalí's involvement with choreography.
It is for this reason that attention is paid to a novel written by Ludmila Tcherina, the principal dancer of the ballet Gala , whose description and plot in several passages of her book restage the protruding eye of the décor in which she was imprisoned. At a higher level, this narrative opens up entirely new ideas regarding the morbid treatment of the image of women by the Surrealists, and particularly Dalí, who shared this sentiment and vision with the ? poètes maudits? Baudelaire and Verlaine .
Frédérique Joseph Lowery