Nicht Schlafen

is not for the faint-hearted

By In Dance, Theatre 1 hour 50 min

Will the aggression that human beings show towards each other and towards their environment lead to their downfall? In Nicht Schlafen, a reflection on humans' primal urge for violence, leading choreographer asks what drives us to fight.

A group of men gathers around some dead horses to perform a ritual. Summarized in one sentence like this, “nicht schlafen” might retain the semblance of a story. But everything instantly contradicts this notion. The area of the archaic cult is bounded by a giant blanket. And amongst the men there is one woman. Is this the staging of a new Rite of Spring? Will a woman be sacrificed once more to atone for failing masculinity?

For this production of director Alain Platel uses the work of the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler as its starting point, as proposed by Gerard Mortier. It wasn't love at first sight for Platel. Initially, he did feel particularly affinity with the era Mahler expresses in his work: an age of great acceleration and disruption leading up to the First World War. But then, in the nervousness and aggressiveness, passion and yearning for a lost harmony that is expressed by Mahler's music, Platel discovered also a match for the images he's looking for in his work.

The musical direction is in the hands of composer Steven Prengels. In the soundscapes he puts the Mahler in contrast to African polyphonic chants and herds in sounds of cowbells or sleeping animals. In terms of stage-setting, this is the first collaboration between Alain Platel and visual artist Berlinde De Bruyckere. What they have in common: a love for the big themes of suffering and death. Together with a group of nine dancers they started the search for the potential for transformation, with the shaky hope that things will not end in large-scale destruction. That potential, that possibility is what this group of dancers want to look for in every performance, without a safety net. A dance of life and death.