MD: How do you translate on the stage the bridge between your double French / Tunisian culture and the Tunisian history of your performers?
REM: I started dancing in Tunisia, but it was in France that my dream of being a dancer and a choreographer came true. You can see the marks of a French training in me, but the culture of my memory is Tunisian. My work combines both of those cultures, in relation to the past and to the present. I questioned everyone’s artistic discipline and asked the performers about their relation to the real, especially since they experienced the revolution in all its violence. And I tried to find a way for dance to tell all those stories and sensibilities, and absorbed all of them in my solitude. The performance brings together several generations of Tunisian artists – dancers, actors, circus performers, musicians – who dream up a performance together.
MD: The title, “Facing the sea, for tears to turn into laughter”, is about a poetic space as much as a physical one.
REM: I need to define the space, to place the body and choreography within a context, even if it is sometimes defined late in the creative process. In this project, the Tunisian body is ‘facing the sea’, it tells of the Tunisia of the present, of the past and of the future, in its unique relation to illusion and disillusion, looking at itself while also looking towards Europe, beyond the Mediterranean… Sorrow emerges, mine and theirs, and the causes for this sorrow are different. Onstage, the space is empty and vast, all the better to tell of this traditional and modern horizon, this symbolic open window, this tradition of a coastal culture.
The Mediterranean basin was shaped by an enigmatic history, by political conflicts and economic mutations, by secrets and distress; the sea seems to be the protagonist of those troubles, a place of tragedy and dream. Tunisia, like Lebanon, enjoys a traditional relation to water, it’s a place of paradox: of purification and celebration. At night, the sea becomes a place where one can escape after a long day of worry, uncertainty, and political debates.
The performance is also about mourning: my own personal mourning and theirs, my tears and theirs, which leads to two explorations, one intimate and deep, the other open to the outside and, in a way, horizontal. I need to tell my hardships and my joys because they are a universal experience. The performance ends with laughter as a tribute to the Tunisians who can, while facing the sea, tell about the suffering and chaoes and immediately turn to laughter. “Facing the sea, for tears to turn into laughter” is about this outpouring of laughter, tears, food, and words.