CULTURE

Dance is a fleeting painting, says choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

For Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, every performance is like a giant artistic synthesis, a book with many stories. The Flemish (of Moroccan descent) choreographer is just 30 years old, yet his fame is spreading throughout the world. Today and tomorrow at the 13th Kalamata International Dance Festival, Cherkaoui will present «Myth» – his first choreography with the newly established Toneelhuis theater company – which premiered on June 20 in Antwerp. Something like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch or Breughel, with elements borrowed from Japanese manga comics and live Italian polyphonic music, «Myth» will be performed on stage by Patrizia Bovi and her Micrologus group. Twenty-one artists (dancers, actors and musicians, among them individuals with special needs) will investigate how a moment can influence a person’s life forever, not just in terms of suffering an injury, but also as an opportunity to discover hidden talents and inner strengths. «People often believe that when the wound heals, the body returns to its initial state. That’s not true. The wound has become a scar. It’s like a butterfly, it has a new form. The same is true for any injury. I can think of several things that I’ll never recover from. I wonder if this happens because I’m concentrating on what is no longer there rather than on what has come to take its place…» says Cherkaoui, who began his artistic career as a painter. «My first attempt at artistic expression wasn’t dance, but drawing. It was a way to interpret the reality that surrounded me. At some point, I grew bored… two dimensions weren’t enough. Then I started to dance. And the most beautiful thing about dancing is that you must continue to dance to see what you’re painting. You become the pencil and paper. Dance is nothing more than a temporary, fleeting drawing; it dissolves when the movement comes to an end. Every piece must be created anew each time it’s performed,» says Cherkaoui. Cherkaoui also spoke to Kathimerini about «Myth.» How was «Myth» created and what does it express? It was created in a very intuitive way. All the scenes were creations/proposals made by the performers and myself, and placed in random order. Then we went about putting this bizarreness in some kind of order. This was with dramatist Guy Cools, of course with the dancers/actors and with Patrizia Bovi, the musical director of the Micrologus ensemble. What subjects stimulate you, generally, as a artist? My interest mainly lies in the questions I cannot yet answer. Or, things that are often forgotten or, for unknown reasons, suddenly become simplified. What forms of dance, art and technique do you use? In «Myth,» we use different forms of art without there being any kind of hierarchy; some pieces are sung, some danced, others acted out. The dance style I usually use is very fluid. I’m looking for a complete curve of the body, a movement that doesn’t stop, a sense of the infinite. Did you start with movement? Not always. Sometimes it’s a very specific theme, a difficult situation, other times it’s a question or a song. But, yes, sometimes it is movement. Tell us a few words about Toneelhuis and the way it operates. Guy Cassiers has been the artistic director of Toneelhuis in Antwerp since 2006. The Toneelhuis company is the greatest of its kind in Flanders, staging its performances at the Bourla Theater, in the city center. Cassiers made it his mission to find a contemporary way to direct a large theater troupe in a city like Antwerp. He invited six artists and groups to offer creative material for this new project: De Filmfabriek (Peter Misotten), Olympique Dramatique (an actors’ collective), Wayn Traub, Lotte van den Berg, Benjamin Verdonck and myself. The extreme differences between us created the heart of Toneelhuis. These artists have committed themselves in the long term. Their personal projects and the different ways they work (dance, theater, video, live art, etc) will create the basis for communication with the city and its audience. Toneelhuis’s objective is to be «a roof for many rooms, hallways and communal spaces» where artists can meet, with common points of inspiration, jam sessions (group improvization and experimentation) and much more. Toneelhuis aspires to be a place in which differences can flourish separately and together. The city of Antwerp will play an important role in this artistic story as a crossroads for domestic and international productions. For tickets and further information, contact the Kalamata International Dancer Center at 6 P. Kaissari, tel 27210.269.66. A well-rounded artist The Flemish choreographer began his career as a dancer on television shows and went on to study at Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s PARTS dance school. Throughout his career, Cherkaoui has been surrounded by important instructors in Western and Eastern dance techniques. For «Rien de Rien» (2000), his first choreography, he was rewarded with the Nijinsky Award for the most promising new choreographer. That same year, Wim Vandekeybus choreographed a piece for him in the solo «It» for the Avignon Festival. Next came «D’avant,» which Cherkaoui choreographed along with Damien Jalet, Luc Dunberry and Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola for the Schaubuhne Theater in Berlin and later, directed by Sasha Waltz, for the cultural program of the Athens Special Olympics. With «Foi» (2003, Les Ballets C de B) he explored the issues of faith and tolerance. In 2004, in Avignon, he presented the choreography «Tempus Fugit,» while 2005 saw him working with Akram Khan as co-choreographer and co-dancer in «Zero-Degrees,» a comment on mixed cultural identity. In 2006, in cooperation with Nicolas Vladyslav, Cherkaoui choreographed «Corpus Bach.» Cherkaoui has also collaborated as choreographer with the Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve and the Ballets de Monte Carlo.