Conception 1924: Francis Picabia with Entr'acte: René Clair
Reenactment March 2014, at the Opéra national de Lorraine
Choreography: Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley
Music: Erik Satie

Relâche © Laurent Philippe

An instantaneous ballet in two acts, a cinematographic entracte and The Dog’s Tail

Conception 1924: Francis Picabia
Music: Erik Satie
Choreography: Jean Börlin
Film: René Clair
Reenactment - 2014
Choreography: Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley
Historical research and dramaturgy: Christophe Wavelet
Set design: Annie Tolleter
Lighting : Eric Wurtz
Historiacal research about the 1920s: Carole Boulbès
Costumes : Costume department of CCN - Ballet de Lorraine


1924 was a particularly wonderful year for the man who declared: “I have always loved playing seriously.” Francis Picabia (1879- 1953), the indefatigable artist, writer and enthusiastic letter writer, was working on 391, an avant-garde Paris revue, using it that year to fight on two separate fronts: the academisation of Dada, which he dismissed with one of his polemical, brutally funny texts, and the pretentions of the nascent surrealism of André Breton, which he suspected was only a pathetic means of seizing power in the Parisian art world. He drew, he painted, he chatted with his co-conspirators Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray and between the laughter and the tears, found the time to work on Relâche or on editing his one novel, Caravansérail, which was both autobiographical and lost for a long time, it was only finally published after his death. With devastating cynicism, incomparable lucidity and humour, this Satyricon of modern times is that of an actor and spectator who sends up, sends off and records with jubilation the day’s current inventions and disorders, settling scores, denouncing fakes, blow-hards and pretenders. An ode to movement and to moments of everyday life, between dinners at Prunier and unbridled delights, jazz bands and the new dances, roulette at Monte-Carlo, exhibitions and visits, opium, car races or spiritualism seances at his home on the rue Fontaine, Picabia intertwines the art scene and the Parisian nightlife of the 20’s, mocking André Breton, costing out Eros and blasting the fake values of the artists sucking up to the powers that be. Caravansérail is a literary gem, and Relâche would be the same thing onstage. Both the novel and the dance work show us what it was like at that time, when all of Paris was a party, as Hemingway wrote. This was the time, set during the period between the two World Wars, at the exact moment when the conventions of bourgeois humanism inherited from the 19th century were collapsing, precipitated by the events of 1914- 18 and by the arrival of European fascism and the Nazis, at the end of the international economic debacle which came about after the crash of 1929. Walking on this tightrope strung between two eras, when the dreams of the new Man were flourishing with the art happening all over Europe, from France to Germany, from Italy to Hungary, from Holland to Russia, between Dada, Bauhaus and Constructivism, the renewal of these art forms resonated for Picabia and his friends with the renewal of certain forms of life.

Relegating old forms of blackmail to what he termed “eternal beauty,” to “noble or overly solemn subjects,” it was with ferocity and humour that the man who declared that he preferred “a chair at the Paris Casino to one at the Académie Française,” attacked the art that had become a mere accessory or a piece of bourgeois furniture – a lie which could be bought, a conveyor of conventions, whose declared romanticism or rebellion against command would set off corrosive yet always joyful salvos.

As for Relâche, it was with the complicity of his elder in salutary insolences, Erik Satie, that Picabia conceived it, along with the young, elegant René Clair, an art critic and writer in a sleeping Paris, a director who was an intact breath of freshness, whom he asked to direct the Entr’acte cinématographique which he had sketched out. And Jean Börlin, the dancer and official Swedish choreographer - was assigned the task of translating onto the bodies a part of the choreography of the piece, which was otherwise taken care of by the overwhelming kineticism of the scenographic art object he conceived of as a set, somewhere between blinding sculpture and flashing luminous tableau. He was asked to speak three of the most familiar languages spoken by audiences in certain dark Parisian theatres of the time – music hall, circus and ballet – to twist them into a sort of braid in which quotes and puns and insinuations of a deliberate casualness would undo the normal hierarchies and communicate his enigmas. Between collage and montage and these newer procedures of the art of that time, the curtain went up on a fiction. And while the “bride” of art, once “stripped naked by its bachelors,” gets dressed in order to later undress them – it is to the audience that Picabia asks this question: what is the Entr’acte (something taking place between two acts) for those who are on Relâche (in French the word means a day of no performance, or that the theatre is closed)? Christophe Wavelet


Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley

A creative team

Born in Stockholm, Petter Jacobsson started his studies in dance at the age of three and was further educated at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, he later graduated from the Vaganova Academy in St.Petersburg in 1982.

As a principal dancer with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in London between 1984 to 1993, he toured the globe dancing all of the renowned classical roles as well as appearing as guest artist with numerous international companies. In 1993, he moved to New York to begin a freelance career, working with Merce Cunningham in his Repertory Group, Twyla Tharp Dance Company, Irene Hultman Dance and later Deborah Hay.

The choreographer and dancer Thomas Caley was born in the United States. In 1992 he earned a BFA from Purchase College in upstate New York. After a year of performing in a multitude of independent projects in New York City he joined the Merce Cunningham Company.
From 1994 to 2000, he worked as a principal dancer with the company, touring throughout the world and participating in the creation of 12 new works by Cunningham. In 2000 he moved to Stockholm to continue his collaboration with Petter Jacobsson and to continue working as a freelance dancer in Europe, in France Thomas has worked with Boris Charmatz on the 50 ans de danse & flip book projects. As of 2011, Thomas Caley is the coordinator of research for the CCN - Ballet de Lorraine.

Petter and Thomas Caley started working as a creative team in the mid nineties, choreographing works for Martha@Mother, the Joyce Soho in New York and the choreography for the opera Staden at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, a commission for the 1998 Cultural capital of Europe.

In 1999, when Petter was appointed the artistic directorship of the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm, they made the move to Europe to continue their artistic collaboration. An exceptional embodiment of their work for the RSB was the creating of two immense happenings,In nooks and crannies 2000 and 2001. The project included the Royal Ballet, Opera and Orchestra, as well as independent artists who took-over non-traditional, yet possible, performance spaces occupying the entire Royal Opera House of Stockholm. Petter received "Choreographer of the year 2002” from the Society of Swedish Choreographers in recognition of the modernisation of the Royal Swedish Ballet. 

After years of collaboration, Petter and Thomas established an independent dance company in 2005 - works include Nightlife, Unknown partner, Flux, No mans land- no lands  man,The nearest nearness – in 2002 they won a “Goldmask” for best choreography for the musical Chess with Björn Ulveus and Benny Andersson (ABBA).

As of 2011, Petter is leading and choreographing together with Thomas Caley for the CCN Ballet de Lorraine in Nancy: Untitled Partner #3, Performing Performing, Relâche, Armide, Discofoot, L’Envers, Record of ancient things, Happening Birthday. Their curating for the CCN invites as well a wide variety of artistic talent from around the world. Each invited creator joins in the active questioning of a specific theme: La saison de La 12/13, Tête à tête à têtes 13/14, Live 14/15, Folk + Danse = (R)évolution 15/16 and Des plaisirs inconnus 16/17, 50 ans ! 17/18. To insure a lively and non fixed use of the art form they continue their searching through installations for the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and Musée Pompidou Metz and an original initiative LAB-BLA-BAL, where a series of open house art experiments, workshops, and discussions are given at our choreographic center.


Francis Picabia

Francis Picabia, (born January 22, 1879, Paris, France—died November 30, 1953, Paris), French painter, illustrator, designer, writer, and editor, who was successively involved with the art movements Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism.

Picabia was the son of a Cuban diplomat father and a French mother. After studying at the École des Arts Décoratifs (1895–97), he painted for nearly six years in an Impressionist mode akin to that of Alfred Sisley. In 1909 he adopted a Cubist style, and, along with Marcel Duchamp, he helped found in 1911 the Section d’Or, a group of Cubist artists. Picabia went on to combine the Cubist style with its more lyrical variation known as Orphism in such paintings as I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie (1913–14) and Edtaonisl (1913). In these early paintings he portrayed assemblages of closely fitted, metallic-looking abstract shapes. As Picabia moved away from Cubism to Orphism, his colours and shapes became softer.

In 1915 Picabia traveled to New York City, where he, Duchamp, and Man Ray began to develop what became known as an American version of Dada, a nihilistic art movement that flourished in Europe and New York from 1915 to about 1922. In New York Picabia exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, and contributed to the proto-Dadaist review 291. About 1916 he gave up the Cubist style completely and began to produce the images of satiric, machinelike contrivances that are his chief contribution to Dadaism. The drawing Universal Prostitution (1916–19) and the painting Amorous Procession (1917) are typical of his Dadaist phase; their association of mechanistic forms with sexual allusions were successfully shocking satires of bourgeois values.

In 1916 Picabia returned to Europe. He settled in Barcelona, where he published the first issues of his own satiric journal 391 (named in reference to the New York review). He subsequently joined Dadaist movements in Paris and Zürich. In 1921 he renounced Dada on the grounds that it was no longer vital and had lost its capacity to shock. In 1925 he left Paris to settle in the south of France, where he experimented with painting in various styles. He returned to live in Paris in 1945, and he spent the final years of his life painting in a mostly abstract mode. Picabia was notable for his inventiveness, adaptability, absurdist humour, and disconcerting changes of style.

The Ballets suédois

The Ballets Suédois was a predominantly Swedish dance ensemble based in Paris that, under the direction of Rolf de Maré (1888–1964), performed throughout Europe and the United States between 1920 and 1925, rightfully earning the reputation as a «synthesis of modern art».

The Ballets Suédois created pieces that negotiated new terms of the post-World War I European imaginary by combining forms of “dance, drama, painting, poetry, and music with acrobatics, circus, film, and pantomime”.

Between 1920 and 1924, the ensemble performed 24 creative pieces, totaling 2,678 performances in 274 cities throughout twelve countries. The collaboration of the choreography of Jean Börlin, the artistic direction of de Maré, and the aesthetic framework of Fernand Léger, provided a rich intercultural cross-section of avant-garde performance in interwar Europe.

The company collaborated with some of the top creative talents in Paris for story creation, set design, and music composition. These included the poets Blaise Cendrars, Paul Claudel, Cocteau and Ricciotti Canudo; the composers Auric, Honegger, Milhaud, Cole Porter, Poulenc, and Satie; and the artists de Chirico, Fernand Léger, and Francis Picabia.

Visual design was a strong element in the company’s productions, sometimes overpowering the dancing.

Börlin’s interest in primitive cultures, which was shared by many artists of the early 20th century, inspired La création du monde (1923). Its source, an African creation myth, was reflected in Milhaud’s jazz score and Léger’s designs, but most of the choreography was couched in the academic ballet technique. Börlin added a few original touches, however, such as the heron-dancers who moved on stilts.

The company’s last production was the Dadaist ballet Relâche (1924), whose title means a cancelled performance.