Excerpt from the Manifesto for the National Choreographic Centre

I am not losing my temper; I simply wish to propose removing the word “Centre,” then the word “Choreographic,” then the word “National!”

The word “Centre” in National Choreographic Centre is the result of an impressive public policy, which has proved that the centre could be plural and multiply elsewhere than in the capital of France. And in order for this impetus to remain, a further emancipation must be expressed today: the question of centre and decentralization would then give way to a space where such issues would continue to surface only in traces.

The search for the “centre”. . . For a dancer, this word resonates physically first of all. Not so long ago, the dancer, when he was training, was systematically told to “find his centre.” But today, it is generally acknowledged that the body has no centre, and he doesn’t miss it. The body of modern times has no need for a centre, because that absent centre, the core which would enable one to feel reassured, isn’t there, has ceased to be there. For in the void of a body expropriated of its centre, there is room for dance.

This is why one can also erase the word “choreographic,” in order to approach it from another angle. Dance certainly includes a properly choreographic dimension, but it also happily overflows beyond this framework. Dance is much broader than that which is simply choreographic: its territory must enlarge if we wish to see the overly enclosed symbolic space open up, in which it still stands in our society. The space of a National Choreographic Centre must expand well beyond that which is simply choreographic. It should even be possible to transfer the management of such an institution to a dancer (and not only to the choreographers)! A dancer is both more, and less, than a choreographer: he is someone who works under the direction of other choreographers, who also supports more than just his own work, and who knows that his body is worked upon by the work of many others, the body of his parents, the body of his teachers, the entire body of society. And if he sometimes is the interpreter of a choreographic script, a dancer can also be just anybody, because almost everybody has tried, at one time or another. I propose erasing “Choreographic” because a National Choreographic Centre is much more than a space that enables a choreographer’s art to flourish. Beyond the supporting of dance companies, one must also think outside the choreographer-interpreter-company framework in order to create a richer symbolic content… Everybody then, the ones who practice, the believers, the artists, the non-believers, the outcasts of the world of art, wrongly believed to be excluded from it, the others, all the others, who do not yet know where the Choreographic Centres are to be found, could discover there a place to activate their imagination. What makes a dance should go well beyond the restricted circle of those who structure it in everyday life, and open itself up to an anthropological dimension that joyfully explodes the limits induced by the strictly choreographic field.

And then the “National” isn’t sufficient anymore either. The mental space of a far-reaching action must be at least
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Universal and distinctive.

Also, on the façade, one could simply write: “Dancing Museum.”

Boris Charmatz
Director, Musée de la danse (formerly the National Choreographic Centre)

Written in Leipzig, Berlin, Vienna, Rennes, Vanves, Brussels, Montreuil, in the space of a few obstinate nights.

For the full version of the Manifesto, please go to:

Part of expo zéro a project by Musée de la danse and coproduced by BAK together with Springdance.