Non Nova brings l’Après-midi d’un Foehn to 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Company Non Nova's imaginative use of carrier bags set to the music of Debussy
This article is from 2013.
Many dancers have been described as ‘dancing on air’. But the stars of l’Après-midi d’un Foehn really do. Unlike other dancers, they’ve had no formal training, don’t attend class, never rehearse and wear no costumes or make-up. Largely because they’re all made of plastic.
The brainchild of Phia Mènard of France’s Company Non Nova, l’Après-midi d’un Foehn Version 1 (to give it its full title) is performed by dozens of empty carrier bags, propelled upwards on currents of air, and controlled by their ‘ballet master’, performer Jean-Louis Ouvrard.
‘My work with plastic materials is an adventure,’ says Mènard. ‘It began when I used fans to create a tempest of ‘snow’, to make a dancer disappear. Then I received a commission from the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Nantes, France, and decided to make a plastic bag dance around at ground level. That was the starting point for this show.’
Mènard says she created the work ‘for everyone’, both adults and children. At just 25 minutes long, it won’t challenge tiny attention spans, and everyone has the opportunity to get up close and personal with the bags.
‘The audience sits in a circle around the stage,’ explains Mènard, ‘in order to create the vortex which makes the bags move. The fact that the spectators are all around the space also stops them thinking that there is a kind of trick going on. And it’s a way of everyone sharing the reactions and responses of other audience members, too.’
Those reactions are likely to be different at every performance, because as you’d expect with such a maverick dance troupe, no two shows are the same. ‘Nothing about this show is totally predictable,’ says Mènard, ‘and that is very much what interests me. It’s only the ballet master’s movements that we can control.’
As the title suggests, the show is set to Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), and partly inspired by Nijinsky’s controversial 1912 ballet of the same name.
‘I chose Debussy’s music for its beauty,’ explains Mènard, ‘but also because of the revolution in choreographic form that Nijinsky made with it.’ In that sense,l’Après-midi d’un Foehn Version 1 is, she says, ‘a form of homage’.
According to Mènard, what we make of the show, and those colourful carrier bags swirling above our heads looking more and more human, is up to us. ‘There are several ways of responding to this work,’ she says. ‘What interests me is allowing the spectator free rein with their imagination.’
Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, 2–25 Aug (not 6, 11–12, 17–18, 22), 2pm & 5pm, £10 (£7).