When he took over at the Ballet National de Marseille in 2004, Frédéric Flamand positioned his work “between memory and innovation”. It was not about exploring memory on the one hand and attempting to innovate on the other; for him, the word “between” implied communication, both in terms of his own work and the works requested from guest choreographers. Classical dance and contemporary dance are labels intended to clarify the knowledge and understanding of phenomena, but when a label is used, there can be an inference of limits and confinement. For the Ballet National de Marseille, Flamand has believed in a wide-ranging vision involving disciplines and techniques.
From the outset, there have been three themes running through Frédéric Flamand’s career: encounter, dialogue and a certain utopia tinged with realism. In 1973 he set up the group Plan K, using it to question the status and representation of the human body by introducing visual arts and audiovisual techniques into live performance, and thus laying the foundations for the multidisciplinary approach that still inspires his work today.
Plan K began working internationally more or less straightaway, establishing its position thanks to the recognition it received abroad. Convinced of the importance of a company being associated with a venue in which encounters can take place, in 1979 Frédéric Flamand opened a multi-arts centre in an old 4,000 m2 sugar refinery in Brussels. Artists from all kinds of disciplines have performed there, including Bob Wilson, William Burroughs, Charlemagne Palestine, Steve Lacy, Pierre Droulers, Philippe Decouflé, Marie Chouinard, Michael Galasso, Thomas Schütte, Joy Division and Eurythmics. La Raffinerie is also a place of work in which an international dialogue has been established between dance, visual arts, music and audiovisual arts, thus continuing Plan K’s initial vocation.
At Documenta 8 in Kassel, where he was invited with the show “If Pyramids Were Square” created in 1987 in collaboration with the visual artist Marin Kasimir, Frédéric Flamand met the Venetian artist Fabrizio Plessi. He went on to develop a trilogy with him which tackles the issue of technology envisaged at three different periods in history. The first part of the trilogy, “La Chute d’Icare” (1989), contemplates the Renaissance and craftsmanship. Set to original music by Michael Nyman, it was commissioned by Gerard Mortier, the then Director of La Monnaie, Belgium’s national opera house. The premiere of “La Chute d’Icare” at La Monnaie reinforced Frédéric Flamand’s place on leading international stages.
The trilogy continued with “Titanic” (1992), which explored the industrial revolution of the early 20th century, and “Ex Machina” (1994) which evoked the end of the 20th century and the proliferation of technologies around image and communication. This show was invited to the Venice Biennale in 1995.
In 1991, Frédéric Flamand was appointed artistic director of the Royal Ballet of Wallonia, a neoclassical company. He renamed it Charleroi/Danses, Choreographic Centre of the French Community of Belgium to underline the company’s precise location in an industrial city which was undergoing a complete transformation and to emphasise the company’s various missions. This appointment resulted in him intensifying his work integrating the classical dance technique and contemporary techniques, convinced that it is more productive to have them enter into dialogue that to put them in opposition to one another.
With Charleroi/Danses, Frédéric Flamand maintained his creative work, co-produced with different companies in the French Community in Belgium, established a training programme for professional dancers and organised international dance biennales. The biennales follow specific themes chosen for their relevance in relation to the situation of the human being in a contemporary environment: “Corps et Machines” in 1994, “Vitesse et Mémoire” in 1996 and “Gender” in 1998. Whether Frédéric Flamand drew his inspiration from the past or from the contemporary era, he was concerned first and foremost with questioning the status of the contemporary body – this body which is the dancer’s preferred tool – in its relationships with its environment.
In 1996, Frédéric Flamand started reflecting on the relationships between dance and architecture, both art forms involved in structuring space. For the show “Moving Target”, he chose to work with the New York architects Elisabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, drawing inspiration from the uncensored diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky, one of the first classical dancers to build bridges with contemporary dance.
“E.J.M. 1” and “E.J.M. 2” followed, based on the works of Eadward James Muybridge and Etienne Jules Marey, again in collaboration with Elisabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio. “E.J.M. 2” was created for the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Lyon and “E.J.M. 1” for Charleroi/Danses – Plan K. The two shows premiered at the Opéra National de Lyon during the Lyon Dance Biennale.
In 2000, Frédéric Flamand created “Metapolis” with the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the 2004 winner of the Pritzker Prize, the architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Also in 2000, Frédéric Flamand met Jean Nouvel when he was commissioned to produce a piece for Expo 2000 in Hannover. The show that emerged from their collaboration, “The Future of Work”, went on to be seen by over 600,000 people during the five months it was staged, an outcome which fitted perfectly with Frédéric Flamand’s desire for dance to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. This approach also led to him alternating performances of his works on traditional stages and in unusual venues, such as a continuous rolling mill, a Charleroi swimming pool and the Venetian Arsenal to mention just a few.
In 2001, he created the dual show “Body/Work” and “Body/Work/Leisure”. An extension of his collaboration with the architect Jean Nouvel, this show premiered at the Cannes International Dance Festival.
Frédéric Flamand’s interest in a dialogue between dance and other artistic disciplines led to him being invited by the Venice Biennale to be artistic director of the Venice Biennale’s first international festival of contemporary dance in 2003. As with the Charleroi Biennales, for this first festival Frédéric Flamand chose a topical theme, namely Body/City, which envisaged the relationships between the human being and the city by bringing together companies from different continents. He opened the festival with the premiere of “Silent Collisions”, created with the Californian architect Thom Mayne
In 2004, Frédéric Flamand taught at the University of Architecture in Venice, establishing interdisciplinary creative workshops there centred on dance.
In September 2004, he was appointed Director of the Ballet National de Marseille jointly by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the city of Marseille and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region.
Since then, Frédéric Flamand has recreated for the dancers of the BNM “Silent Collisions” in 2005, “Metapolis” in 2006, “Moving Target” in 2010 and “Titanic” in 2012.
He has also created “Cité radieuse” with the French architect Dominique Perrault, “Métamorphoses” with the renowned Brazilian designers Humberto & Fernando Campaña and “La Vérité 25X par seconde” with the Chinese architect and visual artist Ai Weiwei. In 2012, at the request of the Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Etienne, Frédéric Flamand directed and choreographed Gluck’s opera, Orphée & Eurydice, in collaboration with the Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck who created its stage design. This opera was also invited to the Opéra Royal de Versailles. In 2013, as part of Marseille – Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture, he created Sport Fiction on the esplanade of Saint-Charles train station in Marseille before 5,000 spectators.
Frédéric Flamand has also enriched the Ballet National de Marseille’s repertoire, inviting external choreographers such as William Forsythe, Lucinda Childs, Olivia Grandville, Michèle Noiret, Emio Greco, Emanuel Gat and Olivier Dubois, to name just a few.
From 2004 to 2009, Frédéric Flamand, William Forsythe, Angelin Preljocaj and Wayne McGregor ran D.A.N.C.E (Dance Apprentice Network aCross Europe), a European interdisciplinary training project for young dancers.
Frédéric Flamand was appointed Artistic Director of the Cannes International Dance Festival for 2011 and 2013, and he will be an “associate artist” for Mons 2015, European Capital of Culture.
Frédéric Flamand is an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic.
Frédéric Flamand’s shows haven been performed on leading international stages, including Het Muziektheater – Amsterdam Opera, Edinburgh International Festival, Lucent Danstheater / The Hague, Hebbel Theater / Berlin, Southbank Centre / London, Théâtre National de Bretagne / Rennes, Centro Cultural de Belém / Lisbon, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center / New York, Lirio Hall / Tokyo, GREC Festival / Barcelona, Biennales of São Paulo and Venice, Marseille Festival, Romaeuropa Festival, Singapore Arts Festival, Shanghai Opera House, Maison des Arts de Créteil, Théâtre National de Chaillot / Paris, Biennale de Lyon, Auditorium / Dijon, Budapest Opera House, Ataturk Cultural Centre / Istanbul, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Beiteiddine Festival / Lebanon, Leipzig Opera, Cannes International Dance Festival, Arsenal de Metz, Bregenz Festival, Cervantino Festival / Mexico, Teatro Alfa / São Paulo and La Maestranza / Seville.