Cédric Andrieux, as evidenced by its title, is an autobiographical piece about contemporary French dancer Cédric Andrieux. The dancer wrote and stars in the one-man show, which was conceived and choreographed by Jeróme Bel as part of a series focusing on the lives of dancers. Bel examines Andrieux’s time with seminal choreographers and companies like Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, and the Lyon Opera Ballet. But if you ask Andrieux, the show isn’t really even about him.
“Even though the piece bears my name, it’s not about Cédric Andrieux,” he says. Speaking from a tour stop in Austin, the self-professed workaholic sounds tired and speaks slowly and thoughtfully. “I’m not more interesting than anyone else. What the piece is really about is Merce Cunningham and the social environment in which you start dancing and postmodernism with Trisha and also the French dance of the ’90s. It’s really more of a historical context, which is why everything that is told about my life is linked to that context.
“It’s not like a shrink session where I try to analyze why my father left my mother or whatever,” he adds.
A native of Brest, France, Andrieux started dancing at the age of 12, inspired by the TV show Fame. He studied at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris and graduated magna cum laude. Over the years he worked for top companies like the Jennifer Muller Company in New York, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and the Lyon Opera Ballet. He met Bel in 2007 while working on his piece The Show Must Go On at Lyon. It was there that Bel hatched the idea to feature Andrieux in his next piece.
Bel’s pseudo-autobiographical series started in 2004 with a piece on Véronique Doisneau, a corps de ballet dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet. He then created a performance about Isabel Torres (2005), followed by one with traditional Thai dancer Pichet Klunchun called Pichet Klunchun & Myself (2005), then Lutz Förster (2009), which coincided with the dance on Andrieux. Andrieux says his own collaboration with Bel developed organically.
“I don’t think he really chose me actually,” Andrieux muses. “It just happened that I was in front of him. Merce Cunningham was a big influence for him, and he’s interested in doing the series with people that have worked with artists that are or were significant for Jeróme, for his growth as a dancer and an artist.
“It falls in that context, and I just happened to be one of the dancers that he was working with, and I also had nine years of Cunningham behind me,” he adds. “I think that’s what started the conversation.”
The pair worked together for about two years to develop the piece.
“The first year was more conversational and me working a lot by myself trying to put all our conversations and more on paper,” Andrieux says. “We would communicate mostly through e-mails, and then we started working in the dance studio more on the staging of the piece and the complexity of the things that we wanted to bring onto the stage. We still work on it. Since 2009 we’ve changed a few things and added some, subtracted some. So it’s still living.”
Although Andrieux is careful not to reveal details about the show, reviews peg it as melancholy yet humorous, musing on everything from uncomfortably skimpy wardrobes to the aging Cunningham’s unique directing techniques. It took Andrieux some time to adjust to sharing his life on stage.
“It was a very new situation for me, not just talking about my life but talking altogether,” Andrieux admits. “Just speaking itself was already a challenge and nerve-wracking. I’ve done maybe something like 50 performances, something like that, so I don’t get as nervous. I’m a little bit more used to what I’m doing. But it still remains very interesting. Every show is very different. The interactions with the audience are very different from one city to another, from one night to another, even within the same city.”
For a show with so much dancing, there’s surprisingly little music. There’s nothing, in fact, until the very last piece. Instead, the soundtrack is made up of Andrieux’s voice, his feet slapping the stage, and his labored breathing when he performs a particularly difficult piece.
“Most of the things that I chose did not really have a strong relationship to the music, so I didn’t feel like we needed the music,” he explains. “Music and dance have been separated for quite a long time … Whether I’m doing a Trisha Brown solo or a Merce piece, nothing was really set to music, except for that last piece I do at the end.”
Gearing up for a new U.S. tour of his solo show, Andrieux is still adjusting to life outside of a traditional dance company. “It’s liberating and thought-provoking and a lot of different things,” he says of working on his own. He is his own boss, working with those he wants to work with, much like his mentor Bel.
“My idea of not being with the company is that I would have more time for myself,” Andrieux says. “I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I’ve had a hard time keeping some downtime. I’m working on this whole life thing, having a personal life.”