Noetic, Faun and Boléro: Three elements, three visions, three journeys through dance

By In Dance 1 hour 32 min

Choreographer 's show offers a profound reflection on our intimate connection with the world around us. From putting mathematics in movement to Ravel's Boléro as a dance of death, Cherkaoui transcends the boundaries of the stage to offer us a unique philosophical perception of the world.

More than a choreographer, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is a master. His championing of dance styles and music from here and elsewhere, from now and from the past, and his taste for words as much as for movement make his shows a moment of mathematical, mystical or metaphysical learning that you come of as if you'd attended a next level TEDx conference. Sidi Larbi's teaching (need I remind you that Sidi comes from the Arabic سيدي Sayyīdī, “master”?) is brought together this evening in three phases that could evoke three of the elements in Taoist cosmology. In the West, as we know, there are four elements, but in East Asia, things come in fives: elements, cardinal points, flavours, planets, etc.

In Noetic, created in 2014 for the , Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is searching for nothing less than a “choreographic form that speaks the language of the universe”. Academic and introspective, Noetic (from the Greek 伕ό亦仲仿ς noēsis, ‘intellect') is nineteen dancers, in black suits and black cocktail dresses on a white background, manipulating the flexible carbon fibre strips of visual artist Antony Gormley in a geometric transformation. Stiletto heels, vogueing and hip-hop are in the background, with music ranging from apocalyptic to neo-baroque or neo-medieval, in the hands of Sidi Larbi regular Symon Brzóska, everything in Noetic illustrates the wisdom, memory and fluidity of Water.

In Faun, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui miraculously reinvents the innocent and fierce sensuality of Nijinsky's L'Après-midi d'un faune, preserving its iconic signifiers: the warm afternoon, the forest, the two mythical creatures, the nymph and the faun. The music is Debussy's famous Prelude, with some contemporary additions by Nitin Sawhney. But where Nijinsky only dared show ardent desire, Sidi Larbi resolutely plants his intentions in sexual awakening and carnal encounter. The serpentine and imaginative steps of the dancers anchor this duet in an undeniable physicality: soft, perfumed, summery and moist, like the Earth.

Boléro (2013) created for the Paris Opera is a collaboration with the French-Belgian choreographer , associate artist of the Grand Théâtre de Genève. Inspired since their beginnings by the work of Serbian artist , Cherkaoui and Jalet invited her to join them in developing the concept and set design of this ballet. As Ravel's gigantic crescendo swells, the motif passing from one instrument to another in the orchestra over a snare drum ostinato, the dancers dressed in black and with heavily painted faces spin and tumble, doubled by a giant mirror placed behind them. The black capes fall and a tantric danse macabre of visceral power begins, which only Death can mercifully dissolve into nothingness, perfect joy, nirvana, total consumption: Fire. Perhaps one day Sidi Larbi will teach us the Wood and Metal that remain to complete the elementary pentagram of the Tao…