Boris Charmatz’s 10000 Gestures: “It almost hurts to be confronted with so much honesty”

Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon

Like standing on a platform and watching a train pass at full speed. You can still feel the breeze in your body, but the train is gone. 

What is dance and where does it exist? How can a body dance? Which bodies can dance? All these are questions triggered by Boris Charmatz’s 10000 Gestures, which was performed at the turbine hall of Tate Modern last weekend. Charmatz has already made a project at Tate in 2015 entitled If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse? asking himself how can dance as an art form in its ephemerality exist in a place that collects art objects. 

10000 Gestures is a statement to reclaim back that intrinsic feature of dance. If in the second half of the 20th-century dance was betting for repetition and the experimentation that could come with it, today Charmatz is looking to portray dance with its more essential element: impermanence. But isn’t all dance about impermanence? Isn’t the immediate disappearance of movement what constitutes dance? Or rather, how to make a dance specifically about that?

Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz – 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon

The idea is quite simple, and yet is taken brilliantly by Charmatz: no movement or gesture is repeated or developed throughout the piece, and these are performed at high speed. Therefore we see 24 dancers –in quirky, colourful costumes; including some dancers in underwear and others in shiny gymnastic unitards–, moving all around the space, standing, running, forming groups, at times screaming desperately and at times climbing into the audience. It could seem hasty or rush, but the clarity and precision of every gesture are remarkable. Mozart’s Requiem is playing in the background and Charmatz composition is a great example of how chaos can be crafted and take it on a journey of subtleties and contrast.

Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz – 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon

The presence of the dancers is brutal, it almost hurts to be confronted with so much honesty. They invite us to see them, to be with them, and to share this vivid experiment. It is like a framed laboratory of bodies and identities where the question of what is neutral crumbles apart –although I would have asked for more non-white representation–.

Wild animals, lost creatures, sexual beings, intense yelling, ballerinas, longing gazes, joy, pain, pleasure. In 10000 Gestures there is no time to grab on to anything, there is no attempt to grasp the intangible. There is, however, the opportunity to feel, to be reminded of our condition as ever-changing beings and therefore, to keep on living with intensity.

Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz – 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz – 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz – 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz - 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon
Boris Charmatz – 10000 Gestures. Photo by Rocio Chacon

Reviewed on 23rd of June at Tate Modern

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