Parallèle 26

Co-creation by Archaos & the Compagnie Sylvie Guillermin

Under joint artistic direction, Parallèle 26 brings together four performers from each company.

At the crossroads of disciplines and artistic journeys, Parallèle 26 was born from a desire to create a shared performance that explores the theme of confinement.

Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales and documents gathered by the Groupe d’Intervention des Prisons were the first sources of inspiration for the project. Guy Carrara, Sylvie Guillermin, and Raquel Rache de Andrade then began writing the script, drawing on works such as Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and Tahar Ben Jelloun’s This Blinding Absence of Light. These books tell the stories of the gulag, prison, suffering, and the loss of freedom.

To bring these themes to the field of performance art, Guy Carrara and Sylvie Guillermin chose to enclose four dancers and four circus performers in a large metal cage. These characters tick off time to the rhythm of prison life, with its mix of domination, tenderness, alienation, sexual ambiguity, solidarity, regression, escape...

Production Information

Authors: Sylvie Guillermin, Raquel Rache de Andrade, and Guy Carrara
Choreography: Sylvie Guillermin
Director: Guy Carrara

Artists: Valérie Bordedebat, Smaïn Boucetta, Edouard Doye or Grégory Feurté, Rémi Esterle, Eléonore Guisnet, Raquel Rache de Andrade or Luciane Vivas Costa or Sylvie Guillermin, Déborah Salmirs, and Dirk Schambacher

Original music: Frédéric Dutertre
Costumes: Emmanuelle Besson
Light design: Manuel Bernard
Stage and stage technician: Pierre Lanoue
Stage management: Hervé Bigey and Sylvain Peugniez
Construction of structure: Ateliers Sud Side

Media Coverage

“Archaos is back with a bang... still alive, still in the game, and grittier than ever. The legendary circus company... whose trashy aesthetic has tattooed its name on people’s minds, persists in its gut-wrenching feats… The company’s new piece, Parallèle 26... explodes the limits of what a man (or woman) can imagine, twirling around Chinese poles for an hour, almost without touching the ground… There is a cage of metal poles that is taken over by eight dancers and acrobats... It testifies to the conceptual solidity of Archaos, which knows how to transform a steel cage into a festooned cradle...”
– Rosita Boisseau, Le Monde, 15 July 2006

Parallèle 26 by Archaos... From the outset, you’re struck by the set. There are 26 poles, each one smooth, dark, and four meters high. They’re arranged in a circle with twilight lighting to give an impression of confinement... Eight performers — four men, four women — observe each other, cross paths, travel through this prison with its share of domination, alienation, sexual ambiguity, solidarity, attempts to escape... They are beautiful... If a show is to be judged by the pleasure it offers to the eyes, let’s give them the top prize... Halfway through the show, they invent another scenography, swaddling the iron bars in white elastic bands... We leave with sensual, twilight images in mind, an aesthetic vision of a tragic situation...”
– Marion Thébaud, Le Figaro, 16-17 July 2006

Parallèle 26. For Archaos, pioneers of the new circus, the piece marks a new phase. Gone is the trashy provocativeness of the early days, which became its signature, and the big productions like Métal Clown that had more than a hundred artists. ‘I wanted to reduce the size to spend more time on artistic gestures,’ explains Guy Carrara, the company’s founding director... But the show is still a reflection of its creators, who have always liked to address social issues: Dolly the Sheep and cloning inspired In Vitro, the Gulf War with Game Over, a kitsch parody of the media world. ‘This time, I was thinking of Guantanamo!’ he says. For Parallèle 26, the team read and reread Michel Foucaud’s Discipline and Punish and Tahar Ben Jelloun’s This Blinding Absence of Light. Built around a unique dramaturgy and prison rituals, the play is striking for the whirlwind of bodies and their exhaustion... The artists wrap the bars of their cage... at a crazy pace and end up weaving a spider’s web that encloses them, the ultimate dream of escape becomes impossible.”
– Marie-Eve Barbier, Marseille l’Hebdo, 8 to 14 November 2006

“Within the beautiful setting of the opera house this Saturday, Parallèle 26 raised the question of free will while illustrating the utter dependence of a person trapped in their cell, denouncing all illusions of human interaction when imprisoned by arms and gagged by hands, the violence of the gesture merely translating the sounds of apocalypse and the dizzying absence of silence... Archaos and the Compagnie Sylvie Guillermin have choreographed an unembellished show about the human condition that is imbued with compassionate dignity... Undoubtedly one of the highlights of Les Hivernales, Parallèle 26 is an uncompromising piece, courageously open to the desire to share creation by following a singular path.”
– A.H, La Marseillaise, 19 February 2008

Parallèle 26 by Archaos and the Compagnie Sylvie Guillermin is a multi-disciplinary show (dance, circus) that is the brainchild of the two companies... The staging emphasizes a strong focus on verticality... The quality of the work presented by the two structures made it difficult for us to determine who was a dancer and who was a circus performer. Emmanuelle Besson’s costumes reflect a very special light... As for the music, Frédéric Dutertre’s original composition does much more than accompany the movements... and quickly becomes a genuine narrative force.”

Parallèle 26, a vertical ballet... Verticality is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the Grenoble-based choreographer Sylvie Guillermin. For their part, the artists from the Archaos circus company work on Chinese poles and perform aerial numbers…Two different visions of the vertical space that the two companies had the good idea of bringing together... An innovative reading of these two forms of expression... a fusion of circus and contemporary dance... The eight artists tell the story of daily prison life... A mosaic of intertwined destinies, which in turn co-exist as best they can, clash, or merge... The performers express this universe through highly personal movements, all fluidity and balance, in which it is impossible to distinguish who comes from the world of circus and who comes from the world of dance... The rare lighting and music by Frédéric Dutertre enhance this very special atmosphere...”
– D.G, Le Dauphine Libéré, 19 February 2006

Parallèle 26: a message of loneliness and unfulfilled desire that Sylvie Guillermin’s caged ‘prisoners’ express from their hearts. Except that to further develop the work she’s been doing on confinement, she decided to team up with the Marseille-based company Archaos, which has been revolutionizing the circus arts since 1986... Performed a few weeks ago at Voiron’s Grand Angle, this show is a superb success...”
– Les Affiches De Grenoble, April 2006

Parallèle 26 at the Animal Factory... The set, made up of gigantic metal bars with deceptive perspectives, strikes the imagination with its full power and resonates with the dissent of the eight performers on stage... From the balancing games of the opening scenes to the (superb) final sequence, the austere stage design takes on unexpected and highly original forms... In the group scenes, the complementary nature of the performers is such that it’s hard to distinguish the dancers from the circus artists. An undeniable sign of a successful artistic experiment... Sylvie Guillermin, Guy Carrara, and Raquel Rache de Andrade are to be credited with the unstoppable coherence and conviction of Parallèle 26... They offer us a well-rounded, well-constructed show in which the bodies express themselves with enormous relevance...”
– F.C, Le Petit Bulletin, 19 to 26 April 2006

Coproduction Théâtre du Merlan national theater of Marseille, Cultural service of the Isle d’Abeau – regional theater of the Rhône Alpes, Le Grand Angle theater Rhône Alpes in Voiron, Janvier Dans les Étoiles contemporary circus festival in La Seyne-sur-Mer, the National Choreography Center in Rillieux-la-Pape, the Compagnie Maguy Marin (studio residency in 2004)
Partners Isère Departmental Council, Bouches du Rhône Departmental Council, City of Grenoble, City of Marseille, Rhône-Alpes Regional Council, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council, French Ministry of Culture and Communication