Lise Brunel archive (1922-2011)

“When I wanted to write, I immediately sensed that there was a combat to conducted to allow for the admission of modern dance, I didn’t want to criticise dance, that didn’t interest me, but I wanted to help modern dance”. Thus did Lise Brunel (1922-2011) confide, in the late 1990s, to Marilén Iglesias-Breuker what had deeply driven her throughout her career as a journalist and writer specialising in dance: a passionate love for the choreographic art which pushed her into writing “through empathy”, in the words of Jean-Marc Adolphe (cf. La Collection Lise B: regards sur la danse contemporaine / under the direction of Fabrice Dugied and Ninon Steinhausser, Les Zonards célestes, 2010, p. 10 and 13). This empathy allowed her to accompany numerous choreographic artists with whom she conducted long, and often very rich interviews. These recording interviews – over three hundred hours, in great part digitized – were for Lise Brunel the raw material for writing some 1,500 articles, destined for the general and cultural press (Les Lettres françaises, Chroniques de l’art vivant, Le Matin de Paris, Politis…), or more specialised publications (Danse et rythmes, Les Saisons de la danse, Théâtre public…) from the late 1950s to the late 1990s. The daughter of a writer father and a mother keen on ballet and opera, Lise Brunel discovered classical ballet while still very young, but also the free dance of Clotilde and Alexandre Sakharoff. From 1945 to 1948, she was part of the group dancers of Ludolf Schild (1913-1949), the German expressionist choreographer and refugee in France, whose archives are also conserved in the media library of the Centre national de la danse. This experience was to mark her sensitivity deeply. In 1986, she wrote of Ludolf Schild: “What sensitive and analytic knowledge there is in me, I clearly owe to him” (cf. Programme de la Biennale de la danse, Lyon, 1986). After the death of this “master” in 1949, she deepened her practical and theoretical knowhow with Jean Serry, Karin Waehner, Kurt Jooss or, later, Yoshi Oïda and Bob Wilson. It is doubtlessly this intimate relationship with dance, initially for her own practice, that allowed Lise Brunel to begin a genuine “relationship of trust and benevolence” with the choreographers she spoke to (cf. Claude Sorin, “Conversations de danse” in La Collection Lise B, op.cit., p.12). Not intended to be published, these interviews, with their “informal orality”, already give a glimpse of the form of the article which was to be born from the dialogue between the journalist and artist in question (cf. Laurent Sebillotte, “L’Espace-temps d’une compréhension partagée” in La collection Lise B, op. cit., p.12). Lise Brunel’s writings also derived their essence from numerous handwritten notes made during shows, brought together in a good hundred notebooks from 1970 to 1996. Alongside her own sound and written productions, over the years, the journalist put together a series of documentary dossiers (about 15 ml) and collected numerous posters (over 200 units in the archive) concerning choreographic artists and distribution structures which illustrated her career as a spectator and critic. Furthermore, her commitment to modern and contemporary dance is particularly tangible through the organisation of her various working dossiers concerning, for example, the Concours de Bagnolet, the programming of the Espace Kiron, the promotion and distribution of dance films and, of course, Action Danse, the association she set up in 1977 with the aim of structuring the professions of contemporary choreographers and dancers. From the first visits of the great post-war American artists (Merce Cunningham, Alwin Nikolais, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, Lucinda Childs…) to the emergence of the “Nouvelle danse française” (Dominique Bagouet, Maguy Marin, Régine Chopinot…), then the generation 90, without forgetting the discovery of butō, Lise Brunel comes over from her archives exactly as she had appeared during her lifetime: a militant dance figure, the privileged witness of a key era when contemporary dance was born and became deployed.