Trajal Harrell

Woman holding hands towards her head
Trajal Harrell
60 min

In 2023, Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels is supporting the Festival d’Automne à Paris to present Tambourines by Trajal Harrell.

In this new work, Trajal Harrell draws upon Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, and uses it as a line of approach for an exploration of colonial America. Accompanied by the Schauspielhaus Zürich Dance Ensemble, the choreographer continues to use the onstage body as a means for inventing another possible ending in history.

Coming to us from the other side of the Atlantic, Trajal Harrell navigates a path between the continents of knowledge. Using the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlett Letter: A Romance as his inspiration, he sets off in search of its heroine, Hester Prynne and imagines her life in an era different from the patriarchal America of the time. In Hawthorne's work, the young woman is banished from society for giving birth to a child out of wedlock. She must carry the A for « adultery ». The novel is racked through with repentance and guilt. In the eyes of Trajal Harrell, if we are to raise questions about the era we live in then we need to take a step aside from it. Has it really changed? At a time when some speak of the need for return to a form of (moral) order, what is the message we want to hear? With the help of the visual artist Sarah Sze, the choreographer makes Tambourines into a flexible, laboratory-type piece in which the audience is invited to come onstage for the duration of a show. Don't get stuck might well be Trajal Harrell's motto.

Text: © Philippe Noisette

Photo: © Orphéas Emirzas

About the artist

Portrait of Trajal Harrell

Trajal Harrell

The New York choreographer Trajal Harrell plays with a mixture of genres — from voguing to postmodern American dance — along the theoretical axes of gender, feminism and postcolonialism, conceptualized primarily during his years at Yale University. He trained in dance at the Trisha Brown Dance Company, the Centre National de La Danse (Yvonne Rainer), the City College of San Francisco and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. His creations borrow from fashion, pop culture and the avant-garde, and offer a reinterpretation of the history of dance.

Photo : © Courtesy of the Artist