Unstill Life, Benjamin Millepied, Alexandre Tharaud

Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

Benjamin Millepied dances like he breathes. We forgot it because he had stopped. But he's back, for a few evenings, with Alexandre Tharaud, who plays like he dances, and looks like a brother. The dancer jogs across the stage before the lights go down, in front of us he immediately blurs the ordinary territories of dance performance. When it begins, his gestures are simple, as if improvised, as if sketched out, he launches them like he's singing a romance - in fact, he sings when he dances too, slipping into the interstices where we don't usually see a dancer venture. The usherette had said to us at the entrance: "Watch out! he's going to pass right in front of you, don't trip him!" And so he does, dancing in the rows under the lights, among the people who look at him with smiles on their faces, as if his place were already reserved, as if he could make his destiny and his reserved place of any space not intended for him. As he passes, as he runs, he dances again, smiling as if at an intimate pleasure that is barely visible. He dances like he breathes naturally, as if the nature of this movement, of this music, still had all its rights over him, as if his body had kept, like that of children, what radiates from a rhythm that one would believe to be theirs, so much do they inhabit it, before what is called the age of reason comes crashing down on them, before reason calls them and represses forever these first marriage of their innate dance. With Alexandre, he recounts the similarities of their artistic childhoods, the diagonals of their dancing homes, the resonances of their parents in both.

And on this keyboard that follows and animates him, Benjamin's gestures, so beautiful, so simple, so natural, speak a language that you'd think he improvises, for nothing separates it from everyday gestures of expression: it says "no, no, no!", or "Enough, I can't bear it anymore!". He swings his arms as if in conversation, while his dance soon picks him up, joins him, catches up with us and carries us away with its thousand feet, O how this name seems to him a destiny. Sometimes he lies down under the piano, and there we think his dancing has stopped, that for a moment he's moved on to another region, that his dancing body is silent, leaving us to listen to the ballad of his hands on the keyboard, after Rameau's, Satie's and then Bach's. But no!  Immobile, stretched out, hidden, he still dances, the boundary forever blurred between what he dances and what he does not. As he began, he told us that to dance was to take care of himself, and so we watch, see and accompany him as his cheek slips into his hand, and we see with it the care he takes of us, too, who follow him.

Then they both move on to Beethoven, the sonata played alone by Alexander the enchanter, his hands sailing over the screen of this dancing keyboard, we wait for the dancer, who delays and misses us. He dances as he breathes, but we breathe as he now dances, we breathe when the body of a thousand feet takes flight, when it becomes a poem, never ceasing to soar and turn, away from us, towards us, away from us. His simplicity has become grace, his language has become song: after a long absence, he has rediscovered his dancing body. He has reinvented his dance, traced the before, traced the after, and it's so good to see him, animated by this impulse. Right to the end, we're suspended by what those legs are doing, by what those arms are drawing, engraving those letters of now, those from now on, that we never tire of seeing written. When it's over, when the crowd calls him, calls the two of them, the three of them, with their photographer, then without even announcing it, they slip gently into the murmur of Barbara's Pierre. Alexandre intones it, Benjamin unrolls it as if in a dream, and the crowd dreams too, a very gentle dream, embroidered on the stage like an infinite suspension in time. After all, isn't the play called "Unstill life"?