The Bastille Dances (1989)

Photo: Julian Maynard Smith Photo: Julian Maynard Smith
Photo: Bob van Dantzig
Photo: Michael O'BrienThomm Photo: Bob van Dantzig
 Photo: Bob van Dantzig
Photo: Julian Maynard Smith

Commissioned to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution, the piece began from the central image of the Revolution, the storming and demolition of the Bastille, and the subsequent dispersal of its stones throughout Paris - an image standing for the destruction of the Ancien Regime and subsequent distribution of power to the populace. A continuous performance lasting from two hours to a week, the piece used 8000 breeze blocks to explore the relationships between politics, power and buildings: how buildings reflect the value of society and why people organise themselves in building what they build. The process of the piece was one of spectacular and continuous mutation. Harnessing the energy of the French Revolution, The Bastille Dances created a rhythm within which buildings and structures are transformed, broken down and rebuilt in a form of grand scale sculptural theatre. Like the most dramatic events of the French Revolution, each evening's 'performance' came as an eruption out of the slow process of change.

Commissioned by Théâtre de Cherbourg and the London International Festival of Theatre. Funded by Arts Council of Great Britain, British Council, the South Bank Centre and ONDA.

"Is it really theatre? Since it is directed, aesthetically controlled, lit and costumed, the answer has to be 'Yes'. It is also spectacular, witty, monotonous and surprising in turns. It appeals simultaneously to drunks, itinerant theatre-goers and dedicated students of performance art."
Michael Billington, The Guardian


Review: The Bastille Dances
21 Jul 1989
Published in The Independent

Review: The Bastille Dances
20 Jul 1989
Published in The Guardian

Review: The Bastille Dances
04 Aug 1989
Published in Building Design

The Bastille Dances: Station House Opera by Julian Maynard Smith
12 Jan 1994
Work disscussed: The Bastille Dances
Published in Scroope (Cambridge Architecture Journal)

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