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Marie-Caroline Hominal, From dance step to side step
by Françoise Ninghetto


Until then, only those who visited her studio could view her models—their public display during the exhibition Dance First Think Later was therefore a first for Marie-Caroline Hominal. In the intimacy of her workplace, laid here and there, the models carried the temporality of reflection, the rhythm of research, the movement of hesitation and moments of decision. Exhibiting them meant decontextualising them and agreeing to give them the status of object acquiring a degree of independence from their development process.

A model is in principle a scale version of an existing or realisable object in the dimensions of its imagined or projected existence. It is therefore a double, a sort of condensed version of an existing or future possibility, a support for thought and imagination, or an index—referring to the Latin word for “that which shows and indicates.” As soon as you approached them, you wondered about their purpose: had the choreographer found, by crafting these little “constructions,” her personal way of “writing dance”? Was she keeping, through this manual activity, a sort of diary, a pure object of reflection? Or, evoking Adolphe Appia, was it more a question of concrete research in an attempt to redefine stage spatiality and the creation of a space where anything can happen?


First and foremost, Hominal is a dancer. She trained at the TanzAkademie in Zurich and then at the Rambert School of Ballet in London, where she joined the National Youth Dance Company—a perfectly classical background, therefore, combined with a fundamental demand for rigour. She acquired impeccable technique and has never lost sight of it, but, after years of absolute classicism, her richly imaginative world—which is often astounding to audiences—has overtaken and supplanted conventional forms. Interestingly, in the early 2000s, her work went through a phase that could be called transitional, which, by exploring video, enabled her to advance her personal research. Moving away from dance as a performer, Hominal made a series of short videos, Trilogy A, that do more than just border on the visual arts. This moving image phase led her to integrate a choreographic dimension into her work, which began significantly in 2008 with a solo, Fly Girl. The use of the camera would remain a regular element in her artistic approach, and from 2020 onwards, she began producing short videos of solos in her studio, intended to be broadcast on Instagram.

Her dance works, which feature only their author or articulate the stage performance of several dancers, open on her entire imaginary world. Romance, the cruel mirror of society, a joyfully animated circus show, a playful and whimsical parade, or a quasi-sport performance to the rhythm of the endless spinning of a hula hoop, intimacy and fragility, sexuality, multiple identities, animal metamorphosis—her works, whether tragic or droll, sometimes approaching performance, cannot be pigeonholed into an artistic category. Hominal gradually builds her universe using various media: dance, text, voice, music, video, or the deployment of objects and fabrics that sometimes bring a baroque touch to her shows. As she passes from one medium to another without hierarchy, they can all find a place in her creations as long as they are relevant to the idea she wishes to develop.

Let’s come back to the models. In order to exhibit them, Hominal had to figure out how to present them, since displaying models almost inevitably implies a variety of pedestals and tables. She solved this problem by keeping it simple and effective, lining them up along a wall on a modest shelf. At eye height, they invite an intimate gaze, an attentive exploration of these dreamily fragile sketches. They are fragile because of the materials they are made of: simple repurposed cardboard boxes, small in size, more or less worn out, in any case having already been used for some other purpose. Their dimensions vary, as do their contents, with no respect for scale, because that is not the important thing—their purpose is not to reproduce a real world in a scale model. One is surprised by these small characters shaped by hand, these trees with silver paper foliage abounding, this mask disappearing behind velvety fabric, this cut-out in the cardboard representing a window or a door, this sketched drawing, or this small painting glued on the “wall” of the space created by the box whose front panel has been removed so that viewers can peer in and get lost in contemplation … Not always, however, as some of them are closed up with only a gaping door to let us guess what could lie behind the character standing on the door’s threshold. The variety of materials is in keeping with the whimsical and readily joyful poetry of the models. A strange magic emanates from these cobbled-together objects that conjure up images torn from memories, leading the mind to think up a story as if one were writing a novella or a tale…

While Hominal may have worked on some of these models with a view to a possible choreography, she has moved away from this, and the models have acquired complete autonomy. They are visual art objects on the same level as her shoes, boots and pumps decorated with drawings and words, which she sometimes presents as sculptures on pedestals. The models are about immobility, whereas dance is about the body in movement, which in its very essence integrates space. Everything in Marie-Caroline Hominal’s approach is interconnected with movement and bodies, which have the ability to powerfully translate ideas. But her interests enable her to embrace what lies between or across disciplines. She is familiar with their edges, which, for her, are there to be shifted and overcome. Taking a step aside, practising the art of digression is an experience of great vitality, indispensable in fuelling her desire to get to know different aesthetic universes.

photos Annik Wetter

August 22-September 13, 2020 Dance First, Think Later, curated by Olivier Kaeser at Le Commun – Geneva