Bernard Rémi is a native of Troyes and I met him whilst he was in Geneva running a course for Junior Ballet students. What a lot he has managed to pack into his 29 years! Interview by Caroline Bertoldo
What have you been doing since leaving BJ?
I left BJ about 5 years ago. However in my last year there, joined by a few others, I also danced with the company ALIAS in order to go on tour with "Sideways Rain".
Then after leaving BJ I did several auditions, and one resulted in me gaining a contract with Johannes Wieland at the Stadtstheater, Kassel. His company mixes very contemporary, physical and acrobatic dance with theatre; its central idea being the expression of feeling and character in terms of movement. I stayed there two years.
Seeking change, I left to join with Jerome Meyer and Isabelle Chaffaud to dance the lead role in a contemporary version of Le Jeune Homme et La Mort. We took this on tour in Holland before taking up residence at the Tanzhaus in Zurich.
The end of a six-month run left me with a few months to spare until the end of the season. However, with perfect timing, whilst I was auditioning in Malmō, Sweden I received a call from Johannes Wieland in Kassel asking me to replace a full-time dancer until the end of the season! I did three productions in repertory with the company, and then signed another one year contract.
I now needed a change and requested a "guest" contract; to give me space to re-charge the batteries and find myself a little. A full- time contract allows no time for such luxuries! In addition, being located in central Germany made it harder for me to travel. I wanted to return to France to explore the scene, see my family and shows.
So what did you do then?
I settled in Marseilles as a base and continued my core-strength training; running, bending, pumping iron and developing my six- pack! From time to time I also attended classes in classical dance at the Marseilles Opera. I did not really work since this was a sort of sabbatical. Instead I caught up on shows and travelled extensively. This helped clear my mind.
What do you do now?
I am exploring more commercial dance opportunities; gradually introducing myself to the world of film and commercials through my portfolio of photos. As a start I achieved a two-week contract in Dubai with Emilie Capel, a former lead dancer with Madonna.. This introduced me to a team of dancers of widely different styles, more experienced to this type of dance, including hip hop, break dancing and "tricking", (a fascinating amalgam of martial arts, break dancing and gymnastics!).
For the opening of the FAI World Fair Air Games 2015 I had to discover an extremely direct, "in your face" performance style, employing many simple movements, which did not require much much basic research. The presentation aimed more at audience- pleasing visual effect, without making any great technical demands.
What did this break do for you?
The experience really refreshed me at a time when I was rather lost, jaded and wondering whether I wanted to continue to dance. I had started to consider other possibilities, such as teaching, workshops and other more amenable opportunities within the profession.
Being contracted to a company is very intense and stressful. Freelancing gives more room for variety, a time to breathe and be yourself.
Why are you at BJ now?
I am at BJ for one week, having thought for some time that I would like to return. The training I received here opened doors for me to the professional world, and I sought to repay my debt by sharing the experience I have gained subsequently and introducing the dancers to different techniques.
When giving the auditions in Berlin for Johannes Wieland several BJ dancers attended. I noticed that they lacked certain experience in theatrical presentation, employment of physical expression and use of space. They needed to learn to employ of a wider range of technical tricks and the use of acrobatics, without losing the sense of dance.
Improvisation and a good sense of theatre are extremely important to a rounded performance; the ability to to search within ourselves for our own interpretations, rather than always repeating established tradition, which becomes rather stale.
I have come to do this now because Johannes will himself be teaching here later. He offers apprentice contracts, extremely interesting to students just departing BJand still needing to develop. The work is well paid and gives a valuable opportunity for Johannes to view their progress and for participants to study his work and add to their experience. Since this company can offer an entrée to similar companies, such as Ballet C de la B in Belgium, DV8, Peeping Tom, Pina Bausch and others the experience, this is an exciting opportunity.
I would love my courses to become a regular one to two week teaching and monitoring feature at BJ. But this would, of course, have to fit in with the overall BJ programme. I envisage exploring and developing new techniques to complement the existing BJ syllabus. Maybe even Johannes could be persuaded to create a new piece for BJ students.
After I have finished my week at BJ I return to Kassel.
What is your regime?
I do regular physical training to build stamina. Most importantly I eat properly, avoiding industrial foods, where possible, and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetable. "You are what you eat" is a phrase I particularly like. Forget just the taste and eating of food and think of what it is doing to you and your inside! Sadly I am tempted away from this strict path from time to time!!
Feeling well enables me to achieve more, giving me stamina, relaxing sleep, greater energy and quicker recovery.
What plans for the future?
It is too early for me to answer that since I am at a sort of half- way house. There are a number of companies which give me a buzz. However I feel right now that it is important for me to get back to my roots.
What are your interests aside from dance?
Martial arts. I did gymnastics for about ten years and took part in the French Championships; but then had to stop because of a major injury. It was then that I became fascinated by the films of Bruce Lee and started Kung Fu. I loved this because it mixed gymnastics with martial arts.
Whilst at Troyes I also studied theatre at the Troyes Conservatoire for around 8 years. I have a real passion for the stage, especially comedy. Always a voluble and fluent speaker, I enjoy making people laugh. It lifts me to appear in front of an audience and be able to express myself. But I still need to burn up excess energy and so continue with sport, including rock climbing, which I did for 5 years.
What first drew you to dance?
When I was about 16 I was in a show called "Lizard Madness". It contained a range of performance techniques. But it was during a general rehearsal that I watched a dance duet between a boy and girl, which transfixed me with its wonderful mix of theatre and physical. I was smitten and had to try it myself.
So the year after I finished my drama studies I enrolled in a jazz and classical dance course, working with toddlers. I was impatient to learn everything, not only the vocabulary. I practiced hard every day and passed my Baccalaureat. Then I had to decide what to do next; the IUT (Institut Universitaire Technologique) or the National Conservatoire of Lyon.
I made enquiries about how to become a professional dancer and was told to audition. This got me into a contemporary dance position, which was a shame because I had never taken a contemporary dance course in my life.
What do you think you will do when your dance career ends?
Lots of ideas are formulating, but nothing definite yet. It will rather depend how I end my performing career. At the moment I wish to continue because this year's break has shown me the many diverse opportunities which still exist.
What advice would you give the dancers at BJ?
You need to prove yourself at BJ. Success must be earned, the first contract achieved is the reward for all your sacrifices.
Above all, believe in yourselves. Examine yourself to find the real you; then develop it! If you are unsure, your indecision will be obvious. Then, when you are given a very short time to prove yourselves at an audition, the difference will show; there is no room for hesitation.
This is a lifetime's work. Believe in what you do and dare.
I'm still discovering another kind of dance, more « commercial »: I make a photo book, for commercials, film shoots. Bit by bit, introducing myself to that environment, I got a two-week contract in Dubai, with Emilie Capel, a former lead dancer with Madonna. Iound myself with a team of people with very different backgrounds, contemporary dancers, others more used to this environment and a hip hop dancer breaker and three Trickers. It was for the opening of the world air sports championships. I found myself to be in search, of a very frontal visual effect, with many simple movements and without any research behind. Technically it was less extensive, but it had to have a nice effect, and please the general public.
What use was this break to you?
Having made the break really brought me back, when I was tired and a little lost, and I was wondering whether I wanted to continue ... or get into other aspects such as education, workshops and various pleasant changes within the profession. Life within a company very intense and very difficult. Life freelancing allows more availability and freedom to breathe, and have time for yourself
Why are you at BJ now?
Here I am at BJ for one week because I have been wishing to return for a while because this training has opened doors for me to the professional world and I also wanted to make my own contribution, now that I know what I am talking about.
After several years, I think I can steer the dancers. It's been two years since I have been teaching at Johannes audition in Berlin, and there are dancers from BJ who come. I noticed that they lacked certain things and I wanted to bring them what I have learned: help in theatricality, in a very physical movement, with lots of ground. How to use the technical tricks and acrobatics while remaining a dancer.
I also wanted to show them another aspect of improvisation with a high degree of theatricality, in the sense that we must seek within ourselves, and not stay comfortable, with what we had been used to do and whish can be rather light for that.
I also did it because Johannes will return in February for a week. There are apprentice contracts that could be interesting for dancers coming out of BJ and still need to mature. In addition, it is well paid. This is an opportunity for Johannes to see them and for them to see this work. It will add to their knowledge.
The work of this company can open up opportunities in similar companies, Ballet C de la B in Belgium, DV8, Peeping Tom, Pina Bausch, etc... The ideal would be, if pleasing and possible for my contribution to BJ to become regular monitoring: one or two weeks of training with this program, not only technically, to fill the gaps, but also to complete the Teaching given. And why not, if it fits within the context of BJ, allow Johannes Wieland to create a play for BJ.
It excites me to be able to do that, to be able to help. Then from 25 January to July I go back to Kassel. ! !
What is your lifestyle?
I train physically to continue as long as possible and eat properly: I avoid industrial products, I eat vegetables, fruit etc.: "You are what you eat" is a phrase that I love. Forget what food will bring to your mouth and think about what it will bring to the inside of you body. It is not always easy and I fail from time to time.
Feeling well physically allows me to do more things: endurance, better sleep, more energy, and faster recovery. Etc.
What are your wishes? Your desires in relation to your career?
It is too early to answer this question because I am a little in-between. There are some companies that make me vibrate, but I feel that for the moment, I need to get back to my roots.
What do you enjoy a part from dance?
Martial arts. I started with gymnastics for about ten years, and I've been to the championships of France. I had to stop for one year after a major injury. Then I started the Kung Fu because I loved the films of Bruce Lee and it suited me completely because it mixed gymnastics with martial arts.
I started theatre at the Conservatory of Troyes, in parallel, and carried on for 8 years. I also did rock climbing for 5 years. I had a taste for the stage in the theatre, and I was drawn to comedy (I was a hyperactive speaker and I loved making people laugh, I loved people to know that I was there). I needed to express myself. I loved the stage, but the hyperactive side was very present, so I continued with sport.
I was in a show "Lizard madness", where all the arts were mixed. During this show we all met and I saw the dance rehearsal: a duet between a boy and a girl, I remained frozen, speechless, as there was theatricality. There was both a theatrical and physical side. I was 16, I told myself, "I want to do that, I must try."
The year after I had finished my drama cycle, and I enrolled for jazz and classical dance, I took lessons with toddlers: I had to learn everything, all the vocabulary but I practiced everyday. I ending my final year, I passed my Baccalaureate and therefore, I wondered what I would do after the exam: IUT (Technological University Institute) or the National Conservatory of Lyon.
I enquired how to become a professional dancer: I was told to have an audition and I got it in contemporary section: it's a shame because I had never taken a contemporary dance course in my life.
What do you think you will do when your dance career on stage ends?
I have lots of ideas but nothing definite yet. It depends on how I end my career. I want to go on. During this year's break, I saw that there were lots of different things in this field.
What would you say to the dancers at BJ?
At BJ, we need to prove ourselves because we have not yet succeeded, we have not yet got a first contract, or reward in relation to all these sacrifices.
I want to tell the dancers at BJ, above all to believe in themselves, know who they are and assume. When in doubt, it's going to show. Where you need to prove yourself at an audition, over a very short time, at this precise moment that is what will make the difference. There is no room for hesitation.
It is a work of a lifetime. Believe in what you do and dare.