August 2, 2021

The Tale Tree is back in service, for a Sunday, between the India of Krishna Lila and the Pantheon of Victor Hugo

Qhat better to get back in the bath of a regular activity on this blog than an outdoor show on a Sunday morning in summer weather? And all the more so if it is a quality performance proposed by a duo of artists who constitute sure values ​​in their respective fields, the kathak (classical dance of North India) for Isabelle Anna and the tale for Isabelle Genlis. On this Sunday June 13 at around 11 a.m., head for the Place de la Commune de Paris, a small oasis of greenery in the heart of the Butte-aux-Cailles (Paris 13e) to attend my first show in “real life”, since October 2020: La Krishna Lila, mythological tale of India told and danced by the two Isabelle. An event proposed by the Butte-aux-Cailles / Daviel / Boussingault district council with the Mandapa Center (Paris 13e), specializing in Indian dance and storytelling arts, as part of a cultural program to liven up summer weekends. I had already had the opportunity to report, in February 2019, of this original creation from a text (edited since the end of 2020) by Milena Salvini, founder, and co-director with Isabelle Anna, of the Mandapa.

The big difference between these two representations of La Krishna Lila more than two years apart was mainly due to the context in which they took place: the inevitable vagaries of artistic performances outdoors (various technical and material problems, climatic conditions, mobile and dispersed public, noise pollution of all kinds, etc. ) underlined the extreme professionalism of these two artists who were able to adapt their show on short notice without distorting its symbolic significance. On the dance side, Isabelle Anna had to do the best with a thin carpet placed on the sidewalk, absolutely not designed for the practice of kathak which relies in particular on highly codified kicks to hammer the ground and give rhythm to the choreography. On the story side, Isabelle Genlis has skillfully watered down or shortened certain passages of the original text which are difficult to hear and understand for the youngest ears present in numbers in the family audience on this Sunday morning, in particular the fairly frequent allusions to the assumed polygamy of the hero Krishna. , one of the many avatars of the god Vishnu, whose show traces the main episodes of the earthly mission. What confirms the impression I had during the first performance at the Mandapa Center: a particularly well-run duo work between the dancer and the storyteller, and also capable of performing in all configurations, from the stage of a theater at the sidewalk of a cobbled street.

La Krishna Lila will be performed several times during the summer, notably as part of the second edition of the Contes d’été aux Epinettes, a weekly program around the arts of the word offered by the Calliope association in July. With this year, two meeting places in the 17e Parisian arrondissement instead of one in 2020: the mail Bréchet (for “tales on the mail” every Wednesday in July at 6 p.m.) and, with the Ecoute Habitat 17 association, the common garden at 18, boulevard Bessières ( for “window tales” every Friday at 6 pm). This time again, it will be an open-air performance, with all the last-minute surprises that this can hold… but Isabelle Anna and Isabelle Genlis no longer have to prove their worth as all-terrain artists.

If Hugo was told to me

After this morning appetite with La Krishna Lila on a small place in the Butte-aux-Cailles, direction a completely different setting for the second stage of this course of resumption of activity, Sunday June 13 at the beginning of the afternoon: the imposing Panthéon (Paris 5e), to rub shoulders there, during a storytelling visit, with an equally imposing figure in the history of France: Victor Hugo. At the request of the Center des monuments nationaux, in partnership with Paris Museums and the Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris, the actress-storyteller Ariane Pawin (La Fausta company) and the storyteller Fred Pougeard (company L’Allégresse du pourpre) have designed a show What the shadow mouth says to accompany the exhibition “Victor Hugo, freedom at the Panthéon” dedicated to the writer, until September 26. I have already said several times on this blog how very interesting I found the very principle of the storytelling tour which, in my eyes, allows to discover in a more fun, less didactic way, an exhibition or a place. The hour and a half spent following Ariane Pawin and Fred Pougeard through the immensity of the Pantheon in the footsteps of “the man with the white beard” (as Hugo is often represented at the end of his life) n ‘ only confirmed this opinion.

By skilfully combining anecdotes on their own creative work, extracts from the Hugo’s work, biographical elements, information on the monument itself (the famous Foucault pendulum, the crypt with the tombs of “great men”, etc.), the storytelling duo succeeded in giving birth to a true artistic work. The public is totally immersed in the universe of the author of Miserable (1862) because the artists make his words resound loud and clear, this particular way of using the French language to depict street scenes, battlefields, whether military or literary (the famous “Battle of Hernani », February 25, 1830, between the romantics, partisans of Hugo, and the classics). Thanks to the evocative power of speech and to the communicative energy of Ariane Pawin and Fred Pougeard, the “ghosts”, to whom Victor Hugo asks us to “Leave their dreams” in The Dream Promontory (1860), literally parade before our eyes: Gavroche, the kid from the streets of Paris killed on a barricade, a “wisp” which spins above the visitors; Cosette and her bucket; Jean Valjean ; Honoré de Balzac and Théophile Gautier, two famous romantics, etc.

Ariane Pawin and Fred Pougeard during a storytelling visit to the Panthéon (Paris 5th), in May 2021.

Cut into several “paintings” which allow you to stroll through the Pantheon and to make successive stops in different places of the building, the show has as a “common thread” the voice of Victor Hugo in person who directly calls out to both. storytellers who imagined themselves locked up all night in this disproportionate place. This clever staging makes it possible to constantly play between two temporalities, the past of Victor Hugo and the present of the storytelling visit, two worlds, two levels of interpretation. Without completely revealing its content so as not to spoil the pleasure of a future visit, I really liked one of the last “paintings” of the show in which Ariane Pawin does not just read, but passionately embodies the ‘one of the most famous passages of Miserable : the first meeting, at night, between Cosette, who had gone to fetch water with a bucket too heavy for her, and Jean Valjean. Thanks to a simple but effective play of shadows and lights on the silhouette of the storyteller, which stands out against the grille of the front door of the small underground room in which visitors are gathered, Victor Hugo’s words resound. in all their power. I found there the talent of actress that I had already noticed in her previous creation. One night through the snow, freely inspired by The man who Laughs (1869), and reviewed on this blog in January 2020.

If you would like to dive into the bowels of the Pantheon in the footsteps of Victor Hugo by following these two excellent guides, Ariane Pawin and Fred Pougeard, you only have one weekend left, July 3 and 4. , with three storytelling tours. The icing on the cake: you can extend the narrated visit with a more in-depth discovery of the exhibition itself, rich in archival documents and period illustrations, in particular around the national funeral of Victor Hugo on 1is June 1885. Or if you prefer, you can also go to the tombs of other “great men”, such as Alexandre Dumas, Voltaire, Rousseau, etc., without forgetting, of course, the five women, the last of which in date, Simone Veil, who made her debut in July 2018.

La Krishna Lila, text by Milena Salvini, danced by Isabelle Anna, spoken by Isabelle Genlis. Next performance: Friday July 9 at 6 p.m. in the common garden at 18, boulevard Bessières, Paris 17e, as part of the Contes d’été aux Epinettes 2021. Free access but reservation recommended with the Calliope association (

What the shadow mouth says, by and by Ariane Pawin and Fred Pougeard. Next storytelling tours: Saturday July 3 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Sunday July 4 at 3 p.m. Prices: € 13 (adults) and € 8 (children, from 7 years old). Reservation only online.