From Graham to Pick

– By Rafael Molina

This article excerpt was originally published in the CCNR Magazine, Multiples 22/23.

Yuval Pick, current director of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Rillieux-la-Pape (CCNR), is one of the few contemporary choreographers to develop a new method of training and education for dancers: Practice. Having started a research process around this method, at his side, I notice a strong link to the spirit of Martha Graham, who saw the body as a source of human expressiveness.

Practice is born from the dancer’s organic body and searches for a continuous exploration of rotation, a perpetual weight transfer, and of the space between ourselves. The body is not to be understood as a simple physical data but also and first of all as the receptacle and vehicle of ancestral information.  

There is a true connection between Yuval Pick’s work and Martha Graham’s. The Batsheva Dance Company where Yuval started his performing career was founded in 1964 with Martha Graham as its artistic consultant. The company was the first troupe in the world, aside from Graham’s own company of course, to perform the dances of the choreographer. Beyond Bastheva, Graham has been extensively taught throughout Israel, including the Bat-Dor School, where Yuval received his dance education. Among Practice’s fundamental principles, four of them concern the same areas of interest: spiraling (rotation), weight shifting, from the center to the periphery, movements as intentioned actions. They are approached, obviously, differently and through another process: mainly improvisations through personal and group experiences with Practice ; codified exercises for the whole group with Graham.

The fifth principle “pace-in-between” though is a wonderful addition for a dancing artist. This space between oneself and the other, a space that can be modified, incorporates a true collective component in the class, which is rare because most modern techniques focus on the individual’s body, improvement and personal expression, not on togetherness. Like Martha Graham before him, Yuval’s innovations are the result of questions that are personal but also related to a socio-political context. It is not surprising to see collective, otherness, diversity as central concerns in his works.

The CCNR is situated in the center of Rillieux-la-Pape, a city of 69 immigrant communities. Yuval Pick testifies that working in the neighborhood and with its residents has entered, consciously and unconsciously, into his creations. He claims the need to contribute to the collective in order to rebuild society and is committed to revaluing the role of the dancer as a creator, performer and transmitter.

*Rafael Molina is a performer, teacher and researcher. A graduate of a research master’s degree from Sciences Po Paris and the Martha Graham School in New York, in 2017 he founded Graham For Europe, an organization that promotes and democratizes the teaching of Graham’s work on the European continent. Since 2019, he has also been conducting research on Grahamian pedagogical practices that has been supported by the National Dance Center.