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Portrait: The Story of Christophe Huysman and Nicolas Fraiseau

© Nathalie Sazonoff

The acrobat Nicolas Fraiseau has developed his first creation Instable under the supervision of the director of the company Les Hommes Penchés, Christophe Huysman. Performed in 2018 at the Académie Fratellini in La Plaine Saint-Denis and in 2019 at the Seoul Street Arts Festival in South Korea, Instable will be presented by PS21 (Performance Spaces for the 21st Century) on August 17 and 18 with a grant from FACE Contemporary Theater

It all started with an encounter…

Each year, students finishing their studies at the Centre National des Arts du Cirque (CNAC) present their personal project. In 2016, it is Nicolas Fraiseau's turn. On stage, he attempts in vain for about twenty minutes to climb up a Chinese pole. His performance is all about fragility, instability and failure. In all of these physical and emotional states, often represented in a negative way, Nicolas Fraiseau describes his dream, « that of hanging a pole on an invisible iron wire », and persuades Christophe Huysman, a member of the jury, that his gestures « could be expanded upon ». A few months later, the adventure of Instable began with the theater company Les Hommes Penchés.

…it all made sense during the performance,…

Stepping onto a precarious stage with bumpy wooden boards, a metal bar in pieces, and a few cables, Nicolas Fraiseau contemplates the quagmire that surrounds him. In the beginning, he climbs up the Chinese pole which he patches up before falling. Caught between drama and comedy, the room erupts in laughter. Nicolas Fraiseau explains that « he strives to climb, trying to reach his goal » and « through his endeavors, his actions, accidents, he creates life all around him. Sometimes he slips and reveals how helpless he is ». His body and the pole have become one and yet, they are fighting an endless battle. Instability becomes a logic and the limits of balance a game. The fragility of the artist mirrors human nature and, in the midst of countless failures, the fall is no longer simply a danger but also a performance.

... it was all created in pairs.

At the end of the performance, Nicolas Fraiseau finally reaches the top of the pole, places a small plank of wood, and stands up straight on top of it. Now, the whole staging by Christophe Huysman gets a new interpretation. « It is not about telling a story or even reflecting about instability, this is one of the reasons why the performance is wordless, it’s about action. It is a form that uses all its power and where words are not required », he says. And in this « instantly present », as described by Nicolas Fraiseau, the spectators wonder about the artist’s gestures. What does it mean to fall for a performer? What is failure for the human being in today's society? What is the price of achieving balance when the path was dangerous and sometimes completely absurd? The fall, the instability, the accident are no longer just an impetus for critical thinking but a means to act. Welcoming the unexpected is then part of the human condition.

All quotations come from the interview between Nicolas Fraiseau and Christophe Huysman on Les Hommes Penchés website

About Christophe Huysman and Compagnie les Hommes Penchés 
Christophe Huysman is a writer, actor and director. After his studies at the Conservatoire de Roubaix and at the Conservatoire National de Paris (CNSAD), he created the company Les Hommes Penchés in 1995. Since 2001-2002, the theater company has been involved in a program of creations that opens up new performance perspectives: theater plays, video installations, music halls... It is in this way that Christophe Huysman directs Les Hommes dégringolés (Avignon Festival, 2001), Les Repas HYC (Théâtre de la Bastille, 2003) and L'Orchestre perdu (Avignon Festival, 2010). At the same time, he nurtures an intimate relationship with the circus arts and creates Espèces, pièce de cirque (La Villette, 2004), HUMAN articulations (Festival d'Avignon, 2006), and 7.7.7. (Festival Multipistes, 2015). At the crossroads between street arts and scenographic arts, Christophe Huysman continues to make people dream. 

About Nicolas Fraiseau 
Nicolas Fraiseau was born in 1995. He began his apprenticeship at the Ecole nationale de cirque in Châtellerault, where he became passionate about the Chinese pole. He continued his training at the Ecole nationale des arts du cirque in Rosny-sous-Bois (ENACR) and the Centre national des arts du cirque in Châlons-en-Champagne (CNAC). Nicolas Fraiseau has an appetite for risk and shares moments of freedom through improvisation and precise gestures. In 2015, he joined the Compagnie Kiaï as a performer for Cri, a piece directed by Cyrille Musy and Sylvain Décure. In 2018, he performed in Kafka dans les villes directed by Frédérique Lolliée, Elise Vigier and Gaëtan Levêque; in Piano sur le fil by Bachar Mar Khalife, directed by Gaëtan Levêque; and, in La Main de la Mer by Gaëtan Levêque and Metis Gwa in 2019. As a rising star in the circus world, Nicolas Fraiseau has not finished surprising us.