Robyn Orlin

Robyn Orlin

 

Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, Robyn Orlin set out from childhood to develop her choreographic practice and culture in an environment hostile to all discrimination, including aesthetic discrimination: from Zulu dances to Merce Cunningham, from hip-hop to classical ballet… whatever they are and wherever they come from, all dances are favoured. And the aesthetic eclecticism she demonstrates, this “universalism” –choreographic and musical, cinematographic, plastic, literary…– has become one of the salient features of her writing. Trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance (1975-1980), then at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1990-1995), Robyn Orlin began her career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher in South Africa, where she was quickly spotted, as much for the singularity of her writing, the chaos that reigns in her creations, as for her active commitment in the fight against apartheid. At the turn of the millennium, her (multiple prize-winning) dance piece Daddy, I have seen this piece six times before and I still don’t know why they’re hurting each other, which mocks the difficulties and shortcomings of the young rainbow nation, but also classical ballet as a vector of discrimination, enabled her to tour in Europe and brought her international recognition. France has since become a creative territory for her: she made her first film, Hidden Beauties, Dirty Stories (Ina/Arte, 2004), her first opera, Handel’s L’Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato (Opéra Garnier, Paris, 2007), numerous solos for performers from different backgrounds, and her first theatre production, Les Bonnes, by Jean Genet (Théâtre de la Bastille, Paris, 2019). At the same time, she continued to work in South Africa, where she created Still Life with homeless… for the Via Katlehong company (2007), Walking next to our shoes… with the singer-dancers of the Phuphuma Love Minus (2009), Beauty remained for just a moment… (2012) and we wear our wheels with pride… (2021) with the Moving into Dance company. The universe of this prolific artist is trademarked, as we have said, by the mixture of forms, expressions and genres, by the joyful confusion that she creates on stage and in the audience of her shows, by her critical and political character, and by her strong plastic component. It is also recognisable by the presence of a few motifs that recur obsessively: tutus, for example, oranges, or, perhaps more mysteriously, ducks –alone or in groups and made of all kinds of materials, ducks of all kinds, sizes and colours.