In November 2019, I attended Alexandre Tharaud’s concert at La Philharmonie de Paris. At the end of the concert, I was among the admirers to queue up for an autograph by the renowned French pianist. When it was my turn, much to my surprise, Alexandre recognized me from the ballet Aunis in a performance of the Paris Opera Ballet School 4 years ago. A few months later, he kindly proposed that we collaborate in a dance and piano duet. Of course, I accepted with excitement. Very soon after, we started imagining a solo on Alexandre Tharaud’s own piano transcription of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.
Personally, I have never felt confident to choreograph. Especially for such an important project, finding a more experienced and mature creator would ensure a finer outcome. Coincidentally, just two months earlier, I was in Düsseldorf to work on another film project, Winter, with Wun Sze Chan. We only spent two days working together but it was inspiring for me to discover her universe. Furthermore, her movement language seemed perfectly correspond to the idea of a “Faun”, a mythological half human-half goat creature. Wun Sze accepted to create the solo and started to get inspired by Alexandre’s playing.
Originally, we planned to work together in a studio in Paris for 10 days for the creation. However, shortly after our conversation, the lockdown was announced both in France and in Germany. We had no idea for how long the lockdown and the pandemic would last, so we had no other choice than to start rehearsing distantly through Zoom in mid-April, a first for both of us!
Then it was time for the music to be recorded. Due to the confinement, the venue was changed to La Seine Musicale in Paris. I was lucky enough to join Alexandre for the recording on that day. A new experience for me, I had never been in a recording studio before. While Alexandre was playing the beautiful music of Debussy, I was sitting in the corner of the studio and thought that it was a great symbol for me to be present while the music to which I would dance was being recorded.
With Wun Sze, we spent hours and hours creating and trying out different movements in a living room. Not the best method, it was hard to visualize what the solo would actually look like on a proper stage. In mid-June, I had the chance to work in a real dance studio in Rouen, still with Wun Sze in Düsseldorf through Zoom. Each minute on a Marley dance floor was to cherish, we worked almost non-stop in the studio from 10am to 19pm. Then we decided to film a part of the piece outdoor, just two weeks later! Panicked about the costume which was not ready, we finally took a simple option.
The filming in Fécamp, Normandie was especially rewarding. After all the brainstorming, hours of creation and recording, it was the first concrete step. While Normandie is known for a rainy and cold weather, we were the luckiest to have an entire sunny day for our shooting, very unusual for the region! The producer Raphaël Wertheimer and his assistant Paul Margenest came up with different cameras, shooting ideas and techniques under the fierce 33°C sun. We put a concert piano in a wheat field, I danced in the nature, until a beautiful sunset over the cliffs.
Coming back from Fécamp, Raphaël showed me and let me choose the footages that I like, another first for me to be involved in the video editing process of a professional producer! In the end, I didn’t get to work with Wun Sze face-to-face. We continued through Zoom and the solo was completed by the end of July.
Finding a theatre venue for the other parts of the film had been challenging. Most of the theatres were closed or have their season suspended. At one point, we wondered if we could ever find a place to film the rest of the music video before the scheduled release date of Alexandre’s new record. That’s when Scène Nationale Malraux in Chambéry accepted to welcome us for the filming, two months after our session in Fécamp. There we met the kindest technical team that we had ever known, who assisted us with the lightings and the stage settings for three days with great patience and generosity.
How grateful I am to be part of this, to work with Alexandre Tharaud, Wun Sze Chan, Raphaël Wertheimer, Paul Margenest and other people who made this project possible. I met these wonderful artists who demonstrate ingenuity and perseverance for nothing but the passion of their art.
The final film is now available on Warner Classics‘ YouTube Channel, featuring in Alexandre Tharaud’s new record, Le Poète du Piano.