Van Cleef & Arpels launches its Dance Reflections festival

Van Cleef & Arpels is no stranger to the world of dance. The French jewelry house’s passion for movement dates back to the 1920s, when the brand’s co-founder, Louis Arpels, took pleasure in taking his nephew to the Opéra Garnier. Later, in the 1940s, the house developed its jeweled ballerina clips and, in 1967, inspired George Balanchine to create Jewelrywhich has been credited as the first complete abstract ballet.

More recently, Van Cleef & Arpels has supported dance artists, companies and institutions around the world, including Benjamin Millepied’s LA Dance Project, the Royal Opera House in London, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and the Australian Ballet. , and even created in 2015 FEDORA, an annual prize for choreographic creation.

The brand is now launching Dance Reflections, an annual festival that will be held in different cities around the world. The first edition, which will take place in London from March 9 to 23, offers a diverse program that includes major contemporary works from the history of dance, such as To dance by Lucinda Childs, Trisha Brown Set and resetand beach birds for Camera by Merce Cunningham, as well as more recent pieces by Alessandro Sciarroni, Boris Charmatz, SERAFINE1369 and Gisèle Vienne.

by Gisèle Vienne This is how you will disappear. Photo by Seldon Hunt, Courtesy Van Cleef & Arpels

According to Serge Laurent, head of dance and cultural programming at Van Cleef & Arpels, the curatorial approach of Dance Reflections is based on three values ​​that he discovered while researching the history of the brand: creativity, transmission and education. “They correspond so well to the field of dance,” he said in a telephone interview from Paris. “Dance is obviously a creative discipline, and Van Cleef & Arpels is a creative house. Transmission is also extremely important for dance and branding, as both must transmit a repertoire and know-how respectively. Finally, education is the best way to engage in dialogue with diverse audiences.

Considering that Van Cleef & Arpels has mainly supported classical ballet companies until now, the focus on works by experimental practitioners represents a change. “Van Cleef & Arpels are steeped in tradition, but if you look at their collections, you also see that many of their pieces work with contemporary approaches and pure abstraction”, explains Laurent, drawing a parallel with the fact that many many dancers are trained in classical. forms before moving towards modern styles. “That’s why I wanted to present existing and new works within the framework of the festival: to show that the contemporary does not come out of nowhere. There is always continuity and references to the past.

The rapprochement between the classical and the avant-garde was also a motivating factor in the choice of partners for Dance Reflections: the festival has teamed up with the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells and Tate Modern, each presenting its own part of the program. While working with Sadler’s seemed natural, and the partnership with the Tate aims to highlight the role museums play in preserving dance history, Laurent admits he was initially “a little shy” at first. idea of ​​approaching the Royal Opera House. “It’s such a temple,” he said. “But I was amazed at how curious they were about new and contemporary ideas, and how eager they were to present them to their audience. Although their main duty is to preserve the classical repertoire, they also do a lot to renew it. Showing contemporary works in traditional venues can also give them credibility with an audience that “sometimes wonders if contemporary art is really serious.”

Two men wearing simple black t-shirts are shown from the waist down.  Their elbows and forearms touch as they fold their hands over their shoulders.  Their outer arms flare out in a curved V-shape as they lean into each other.
Brigel Gjoka and Rauf “Rubberlegz” Yasit’s Neighbors will be presented at Sadler’s Wells as part of Dance Reflections. Photo by Ursula Kaufmann, Courtesy Van Cleef & Arpels

Conceptualized before the pandemic and originally slated for 2020, Dance Reflections arguably gained prominence thanks to its postponement. When asked what the festival means for the dance community, Sir Alistair Spalding, CBE, the artistic director of Sadler’s Wells, pointed out that the whole dance industry has taken a big financial hit, but that support from Van Cleef & Arpels has enabled Sadler’s Wells to continue strong international programming and support artists through commissions. “When we announced our participation in the Dance Reflections program, I received many emails asking me: ‘How can you do this after the time we have just been through?’ he says. “The simple answer is that we couldn’t have done it without the support of Van Cleef & Arpels.”

The fact that the first Dance Reflections festival is taking place in post-Brexit London – which has been chosen as the first host city for Van Cleef & Arpels to introduce well-known French artists to a new audience – is also moving. “With what has happened to the UK politically, it is very important that we clarify that London is still part of a world that includes our neighbors in France, Germany and Belgium, all the people who have made a lot of the work we present is possible,” adds Spalding. “This festival feels like a statement of intent to keep our borders open, even if it’s a little harder now to keep international exchanges going.”

What does Van Cleef & Arpels hope their ardent support of the dance industry will bring them? “Dance Reflections is not tied to any specific collection or any other commercial venture. Van Cleef & Arpels really wants to share its passion for dance, and maybe use it as a way for people who wouldn’t otherwise be curious about the brand to discover its universe through the prism of art,” explains Lawrence.

There will hopefully be much more opportunity for this discovery process, as Laurent is already working to build a global network of partners, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York and New York University in Abu Dhabi. Future festivals, however, may differ from the London edition. “England, like most countries in Europe, is very centralized. It was only natural to hold the festival in one city,” he says. “If we go to America or Asia, it wouldn’t make sense. We would probably present fewer artists and we would move to several places. Only time will tell what awaits us.

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