Ensemble Marie: Does The Sport Coat Have a Soul?

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Susan B. Apel

Do inanimate objects have a soul? Marie Fourcaut is posing the question.

Exploring the possibility has been a collaborative work of art. Carla Kimball, a photographer who dances, had an installation at Woodstock's Sculpture Fest. She brought Fourcaut, her improvisational dance instructor, to view the exhibition. White River Junction filmmaker Alek Deva came along and filmed a sequence while there at the King Farm. Fourcaut put all of it together into a performance, along with Kimball and other students in Fourcaut's Dance/Improv class, and named it after a line from yet another artist--poet Alphonse de Lamartine, who died in 1869.

Inanimate Objects, Do You Have a Soul? is scheduled for performance in the atrium of the Black Family Visual Arts Center in Hanover NH on Sunday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m. Admission is free. (Click on the highlighted title or on the arrow in the embedded video trailer, above, for a preview.) Against a backdrop of Deva's film, you will see Fourcaut's group, Ensemble Marie--8 performers between the ages of 20 and 80, men and women, tall and not, barefoot, clad in street clothes. They are not professional dancers, but have been moving together twice a week for several years in Fourcaut's class in Dartmouth's FLIP Program. A lone chair is center stage.

I found them in rehearsal recently, comfortable and casually black-clad. The upcoming performance is both choreographed and improvisational; Fourcaut observes from the front of the room as the dancers begin to move in familiar patterns. She interrupts her work to explain to me that in an opening scene the dancers are coming from "a long journey, perhaps immigrants, tired"; she pivots to call to them that "you are discovering the space around you, and discovering each other, too." One dancer begins to run. "Add the sound of your breath maybe," Fourcaut inquires gently, testing the possibility. Nothing is ever rushed. During a particularly poignant scene in which a dancer sits on a chair and receives a sport coat tenderly into her arms, Fourcaut says quietly "Take your time. This is your moment."

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Other sequences emerge--animals pacing, or seeking shelter. Fourcaut quickly drops to sprawl on the floor beside one prone dancer, talking him through an interaction with the chair. Not only the director, she is also a performer in another sequence called The Procession. 

Warming up

Back to the sport coat. It might mean many things in this piece, but for me--an inveterate gatherer of inanimate objects that tell stories about the most treasured parts of my life--it was an object imbued not only with history but with passion, love, and intense longing. (Take a look in the video above.) When I saw this first in Deva's film and again in the rehearsal, it seemed clear to me that the answer to Fourcaut's/Lamartine's question is yes, absolutely. And if you'd prefer to think that the coat has no soul of and on its own, certainly the dancer gives it one, or shares her own, for the duration of their encounter.

This is an uncommonly beautiful performance piece, connecting dance to visceral  experiences with everyday objects.  Watch it turn into multi-dimensional, multi-media art. 

Marie Fourcaut performs as well as directs.

Marie Fourcaut is a renowned dancer, director and choreographer who has collaborated with Pilobolus, Martha Clarke, and Les Ballets Blaska. She has danced with international touring companies and now resides in the Upper Valley. Marie's Ensemble includes Barbara Hall, Anita Rogerson, Carla Kimball, Bill Keegan, Eric Spears, and Katherine Moore. My thanks to all of them for the welcome and my particular gratitude to Marie Fourcaut for the invitation to visit her class.


I write about the arts and other interesting things in the Upper Valley. Please sign up to receive an email each time I post something new by clicking here.  To view my profile page or to read previous posts, please click here.

Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge


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