Manuel Vignoulle first heard of Whim W’Him from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa—who has made several acclaimed pieces for the company and whom he knows very well. They met when she made a piece on the Geneva ballet and stayed in touch over the years.
Last September, Whim W’him’s artistic director Olivier Wevers sent out a call for the Choreographer’s Shindig—whose dance-makers the dancers themselves would choose for this coming September’s show. Manuel applied. But, he says, after the original May 2015 Whim W’Him program “was put aside because of complications, Olivier asked me, ‘Would you be available this spring?’ It was a nice surprise!”
RIPple efFECT is the work he is currently creating for Whim W’Him’s X-POSED program at the Cornish Playhouse on May 29-31, 2015.
Manuel likes to go into the studio with ideas about what he wants in his piece and for the music, as well as some definite movements and counts, but he does so with a mind very open to what will transpire and how or even if his initial notions will be used. Black & White, a recent duet with his girlfriend, Rena Butler, started out with the idea of light and dark, but “it went totally another way— I’m not interested in politics.” The piece became a strong and tender exploration of harmony in supposed opposites—”color, sex, feminine/masculine inside of you, yin and yang…”
One thing leads to another. A ripple effect. In this new piece, that idea is explored explicitly. Manuel’s description of it begins: “The path is long, full of unexpected things/events. We start where we are but never know where we go.” And the fluidity with which ideas, feelings and happenings are transmitted and transformed seems to be echoed by the way the work is developing in Manuel’s mind and in rehearsal.
The piece is in a constant state of flux. There are changes of pace, of balance, in positioning, in distance traveled. While Manuel works on a section with one pair of dancers, small groups of the others are experimenting with movements he has given them. All the original ideas could come out upside down…
RIPple efFECT has swirling moments and abrupt stops. Dancers are paired or grouped in ever-changing, and often surprising, combinations. In an equal opportunity duet for Tory Peil and Justin Reiter, Tory gasps as she hoists him up. At once Manuel is worried that she might be in pain. “No, no, it’s not painful,” she hastily assures him, “It’s just hard. I’m not used to lifting a man.” A bit later, he asks her, “Are you okay?” With her lovely, genuine grin, Tory answers, “Yeah, it’s really fun!” Each encounter affects the next. There is even a sequence where twitches or tremors start in Tory’s feet or fingertips and literally ripple through her whole body.
There are “so many choices,” says Manuel. “I would love to have them sing something or do something with breath, but I’d need to find time!” The soundtrack too keeps evolving. The music (or excerpts) used so far are:
Piano Interrupted: Emoticon, Two or Three Things (Franz Kirmann Remix)
Roll The Dice: Coup de Grâce
Pimmon: Bubble Beam
But that too could change—as it already has more than once.
Creating this work, Manuel remarks, is “like putting a puzzle together piece by piece,” but not one that comes in a box with a picture on the front of what it will look like in the end. Rather, as each piece is crafted, it drops like a stone in the water of the whole, sending out concentric waves that interfere or reinforce one another.
The rest of Manuel’s description of RIPple efFECT is: “Sometime we go with the flow, sometimes we hold back, resisting. We start with who we are now and wonder who we will become. The ripple effect of each individual personality creates constant shifts and whims in the group that is in endless evolution, transformation mutation, renewal, flow.”
Manuel is excited to work with the Whim W’Him dancers, who are game for whatever he asks of them. “Annabelle has been very helpful to me,” he says, for things like advice on choreographing contracts and choreographic tools, but most of all because “she brings so much joy to choreography. She reminds me—you should have fun!” Manuel maintains that he tends to be very serious and intense. Intense certainly, and very serious about his craft, but the manic gleam in his eye, and the laughs of the dancers’ as he eggs them on to new feats, also point to a shared, and delighted, sense of discovery.