WHAT THE BODY SAYS: An Appreciation of Simon Courchel
To watch Simon Courchel perform is to watch grace embodied. Simon and I worked together as deputy and associate directors respectively at the Invisible Dog from 2011 to early 2013. I was initially impressed by the fluidity of his movements when performing the necessary tasks for the installation of various exhibitions. In an interview for this article, Simon talked to me about “finding the balance between what a body can do, and what it can say” as a resonant takeaway from his early years at Le Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. I always noticed that his body moved with limitless potential for expression, but I didn’t hear his message until I saw him dance.
Simon can write you an entire novel in one simple sequence. A subtle bend of the elbow transforms suddenly into a sharp angle and finishes slowly with a controlled straightening of the arm, all perfectly in time with the music and the other performers. I asked him what he tries to communicate through dance and he replied with unsurprising poetry:
I like to play with the speed, try to change the perception of the time, and use different energies and textures that can be translated through movements.
I use and play with the space in my body, and the space where my body is.
I have intentions—multiple ones—feelings, and sensations.
I play with details; I frame them or do the opposite.
I think of what I do, or sometimes I don’t, and the body has its own brain.
This is a person for whom the body is not a vessel, but a pen, a loudspeaker, maybe even a magic wand as he attempts to slow down time and inhabit multiple dimensions in a single moment.
Of course, the human body isn’t capable of changing the speed of time any more than it can fly. But it is this intention of the impossible that captures my attention so completely regardless of whether Simon is painting a wall or performing for Yanira Castro. In the summer of 2013, I watched Simon perform in Yanira’s The People To Come, and I was reminded that his intense mental focus and dedication to technique still allow room for the ability to make jokes. Simon is also a photographer. He is a very active but quiet observer of his environment. He is at once in the world and watching it. This liminal space is the perfect vantage point from which to expose the humor of a given moment, which helps to create, rather than destroy, beauty.
Simon is a skilled listener, a proficient mover, a strong athlete, and a very hard worker, but none of these quite encapsulate why I think he deserves more attention. I asked him to tell me what success means and he answered thus:
Success? It’s being able to work and collaborate with the artists we love and have the best time ever during the process of making a work. Then the performances are the moments when we share it.
That’s why Simon is deserving of greater appreciation as a performer: because he wants to tell you something, to share something with you, and in so doing, to continue creating and telling the stories through which we can all find a more powerful connection.
You can see Simon dance in a canary torsi’s COURT/GARDEN at Danspace, October 9 – 11: danspaceproject.org
RISA SHOUP is the Associate Director of The Invisible Dog Art Center, Brooklyn, and her passion is to develop unique and accessible cultural spaces from existing building stock. She works to provide artists with the financial and workspace resources they need to create work that the public can experience in non-traditional spaces.