Lionel Rougerie, musical storyteller

Tonight in Liège and tomorrow in Brussels, Lionel Rougerie will do his best to help children come to grips with the mysteries of orchestral music. There will be no needless didacticism, just talented storytelling given an ideal platform in “Scheherazade”, his version of One Thousand and One Nights.


For four seasons, Rougerie has, as part of the L’orchestre à la portée des enfants (Concerts for children) series, demonstrated masterful brilliance in guiding a giant symphony orchestra with an invisible hand: a conductor who does not conduct but makes all the decisions.


A trained dancer, he knew the director, Sybille Wilson, and was keen to see her work. He suddenly found himself in Liège for “L’Enfant et les sortilèges”. From that point onward, proposals began to come his way, and this season, the Frenchman is staging the three shows of the series, “Scheherazade”, “Peer Gynt” and Carl Neilson’s “Aladdin”.


How does one make musicians move? The players’ immobility is fairly traditional because, in reality, they use all of their body and move a lot while performing. “I therefore use music and those that make music as my starting point. And it’s when those body movements need to be reproduced that my experience as a dancer becomes crucial.”


Rougerie also has a second career, as a dancer, which he took up very late, at the age of 25. “My childhood in Nantes was spent in a very literary family environment. The fate of humanity interested me, so I studied history and political science, which should have led me to a job in the service sector. But I preferred writing, traveling and rugby, which I partake in very intensely. That was the moment that the choreographer Maguy Marin moved to the outskirts of Lyon: I suddenly had a desire to dance, and I started to learn as I went along. Dominique Dupuy trained me from 2000 onward and put me on the stage.”


During the first decade of the new century, Rougerie worked with several dance companies and founded his own, “Omnibus,” in 2009. “I staged ‘Chapitre V’ with reference to the book and Henri Michaux’s ‘Pays lointain’ with jazz improvisations on the bass clarinet. I also put on a show for children that did the rounds of primary schools in Paris, ‘Hansel et Gretel’, but without the music from Humperdinck’s opera.” He opened a new chapter of his life in 2011 by establishing a partnership with Nadine Beaulieu, which began with a solo piece, “Cadrage/ débordement,” and continued with “Match à quatre,” a nod toward his love of rugby. “And I’ve just received a proposal to stage concerts for the Ile de France Symphony Orchestra.” And that is how life is for Rougerie, moving from one contrasting experience to the next. One of which is the series that will see him work with the Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (OPRL) three times this season.


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