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Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Sep 29, 2004 3:54 am ]
Post subject:  Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

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TICKETS: 020 7960 4242

Merging traditional stories with the dancers’ own experiences and personal memories, dazzling young Moroccan-Flemish choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui makes his Dance Umbrella debut following Foi, a recent sell-out at QEH. Tempus Fugit (Time Flies) dissects cultural notions of time and examines how it can be controlled, manipulated, rewound, looped or paused.

Larbi focuses on the Mediterranean, alongside the Arab and West African world, using original compositions from Najib Cherradi and Weshm as well as traditional regional songs, with themes ranging from religion to love, from lullabies to songs of mourning, from songs of joy to war anthems. At only 28 years of age, Larbi is undoubtedly one of Europe's most promising choreographers. In addition to his previous international hits, Rien de Rien and Foi, he won plaudits as a dancer in Alain Platel’s lets Op Bach (winner of the Time Out Award for Best Production 1998) and at the Edinburgh Festival in Anonymous Society (winner of the Barclays Theatre Award for Best Musical Theatre 1999), which he also choreographed.

"The cast is extraordinary, reckless and compelling, and Cherkaoui is clearly a major talent"
The Guardian (on Foi)

Fri 15 Oct
Free to ticket holders after the performance.

<small>[ 29 September 2004, 08:04 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Juliasw [ Fri Oct 15, 2004 7:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

Cherkaoui's work is truly inspirational. Political dance theatre interlaced with multiple symbolic layers. 'Tempus Fugit' has amongst others been co-produced by Pina Bausch and follows his very successful production 'Foi'(2003). Looking at the concept of time, Cherkaoui plays with its apparent absoluteness and questions whether we can master our own time. An international cast puts his theories to the test, using an acrobatic Chinese pole technique - it promises to be a very interesting evening!!

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Oct 19, 2004 6:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

Les Ballets C de la B

the Guardian

Larbi has imagined an impressively dynamic space for his multicultural cast to inhabit. The world of Tempus Fugit is not a contrived fusion of all nations, but a 21st-century melting pot as rich in problems as it is in possibilities.

Author:  Christine de León [ Tue Oct 19, 2004 2:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

My friend saw the Friday performance and she really rated it (by the way I made the mistake of taking her to see Batik, see posting) - in fact she raved about it. She was so enthralled by the versatility of the dancers and the inclusive casting of different looking performers. I wish I had gone to see it, sounded like a highlight of this year's Dance Umbrella.

Author:  Lyndsey Winship [ Wed Oct 20, 2004 3:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

I couldn't get to this performance but I did see Tempus Fugit in Edinburgh during the festival. To be honest I was disappointed because I thought Foi was an amazing piece of theatre, but Tempus Fugit put me to sleep. I'd be really interested to know if the piece had been reworked at all. The version I saw was really long, about two hours I think, and felt even longer. There was so much great material in there but it needed some serious editing. Anyone seen both?

Author:  Ramsay Burt [ Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

Lyndsey, I only saw it at the QEH, but it may have been cut somewhat since Edinburgh since I thought it only lasted about 1 hour 40 minutes. Julia Skene-Wenzel and I saw it together and are each writing about it. I'm concentrating on the overall context, while Julia will be writing with a more in depth focus. As I say below, I felt about Platel's 'Wolf' somewhat how you seem to have felt about 'Tempus Fugit' in Edingurgh.


Because of Alain Platel's 'Wolf', which I saw a few weeks ago at Sadlers' Wells, I went to see Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's 'Tempus Fugit' with mixed feelings. I am ashamed to say that I had never seen the work of Les Ballets C de la B before, and someone whose judgment I greatly respect told me I must see Platel and Cherkaoui's work. I found 'Wolf' overwhelming in its ambition - so many dancers, singers, musicians, the expensive two storey set depicting a down-at-heel shopping centre, the pyrotechnics, the dogs, and of course the length. I could see it had a formula that was indebted to Pina Bausch's polyglot, interdisciplinary tanztheater but with a cosmopolitan Belgian inflection and a debt to late 1980s Eurocrash.

I felt Platel wanted to contaminate an operatic theatricality that exploited the full technical resources of a large theatre by injecting them with an edgy sensibility that referred to the street life of an anarchic, marginalised underclass. Socially and politically it seemed to be coming from a place I respected, but the piece itself was tedious and parts of some individual's performances seemed self indulgent.

Clearly this was not Platel's best piece nor a good introduction to the company's work. Someone suggested that the problem lay in his collaborative working process: he was giving the dancers too much freedom and not really moulding the parts together. So coming to see 'Tempus Fugit' I had my doubts. What I found was a very similar formula and scale of production , but somehow Cherkaoui had made it work for me in a way that Platel had failed to do. In my opinion this came down to three things: the music, the dancing, and the relation between individual detail and overall effect.

'Tempus Fugit' (Time Flies) was operatic. Almost all the dancers sung powerfully and beautifully - as in Akram Khan's 'Ma', they even did it upside down - and both Khan and Cherkaoui draw on Islamic and Indian traditions. When it works, dancing to live music and singing can be powerfully affective. It is a very sensual luxury, though an expensive one and thus precious. Most people nowadays have already become habituated to hearing recorded music before they encounter it played live. As a result it is less respected, less listened to than it was before the advent of the recording studio, and nowadays too often functions as mere background.

Dancing in silence can be hard to bear but sometimes gains an immediacy that is lacking when that silence is filled with music. If I have a criticism of 'Tempus Fugit' it is that I felt Cherkaoui was afraid of silence. Though mostly the music was integral to the piece, occasionally it seemed to be just background.

But for dancers there is a world of difference between waiting tensely for a cue in pre-recorded music and dancing with live musicians who can lead but also follow. The musicians and the exceptional percussionist helped Cherkaoui and his dancers achieve levels of performance they couldn't have reached without them.

To my European ear, Najib Cheradi's music sounded predominantly Islamic - though in fact it was really a hybrid drawing on many traditions. It was played on a cello, a qanun (somewhat like a zither) and both western percussion and what were described as 'sound objects'. Much of the folk singing had a distinctly harsh, forced quality that I associate with Bulgarian and Balkan folk ensembles, but I read in the programme that the dancers had been fascinated by Corsican traditions. Mediterranean culture is of course a melting pot of classical and Islamic influences.

The music exemplifies the cultural space that I think 'Tempus Fugit' appropriates for itself: the sometimes uneasy, sometimes positive space in which citizens of former colonial powers gradually get used to the coexistence of European and immigrant cultural experiences. In 'Wolf' I hadn't found the soprano dressed as a bag lady singing Mozart Arias made me feel any better about European high culture. 'Tempus Fugit' seemed to be coming from a much more interesting and important place.

The picture at the top of this web page exemplifies an appealing aspect of 'Tempus Fugit' - the male dancers' seemingly irrepressible desire to do exciting, risky moves. The piece was co-commissioned by the Avignon Festival. Its substantial set includes two rows of upright scaffolding poles topped with stylized chromium foliage concealing a platform. They look like an alley of trees in a public park, an effect supported by videos of landscape imagery projected on a screen behind them. This may have been conceived with performance in an open-air gothic courtyard in Avignon in mind, but on the somewhat constrained stage at the QEH looked a little cluttered.

The way the men (but not the women) in the company shimmied up these poles, locked onto them with crossed ankles and then hung upside down recalled circus aerialists on soft ropes. The dancers clambered around the poles taking up wide, expansive poses that created striking geometric effects, and sometimes dropped perilously down them like extreme sports addicts. On pole or dance floor they moved in choreographed sequences that had an energetic, syncopated rhythm and sense of visual excitement that infused through the piece as a whole.

Sometimes the movement material was abstract - often virtuosic moves for their own sake; sometimes it developed out of narrative situations and after a while collapsed back into them, like the scene where the men accidentally on purpose kept pirouetting round with extended arms that slapped into an increasingly unnerved, persecuted young woman (shades of Eurocrash?). A few moments had an intriguing, ritualistic quality. At the start the dancers performed a complex, accumulative unison sequence accompanied by deep, gruff male singing. One by one they joined a snaking line who stepped slowly and rhythmically towards a pole, hung on by one hand to swing themselves round it (in a unison formation with the other dancers) before stepping slowly on. The overall effect recalled for me some of Gurdieff's ritual dances I once saw in Peter Brook's 1979 film of the book 'Meetings with Remarkable Men'. I leave further discussion of the choreography to Julia.

The fact that Cherkaoui was himself dancing on stage suggests he used his own sense of the piece's energy to guide him in moulding the piece, almost like a player manager in a football team. There are lots of different ways in which a choreographer can work with dancers -- as someone who brings in steps and teaches them to a company, as someone who involves dancers in generating material that he or she then edits and sets, and as an outside eye who helps dancers generate and organise their own material. It is a question of power relations within structures that vary between tightly controlled hierarchy and open ended collaboration. At stake is how much and in what ways the dancers' creativity can be acknowledged and included.

In England at the moment, we are used to treating the choreographer as god and mostly see indigenous work based on fairly conservative ideas about choreographic form and narrative content that still have their roots in the type of American modern dance imported here in the 1970s.

I may be wrong but, compared with this, Ballet C de la B probably seems radical to many English viewers. Where British artists have adopted similar collaborative working processes and ideologies of performance they have never had access to the kinds of theatrical resources or the size of cast that Cherkaoui has at his disposal. But from a continental European point of view, Ballets C de la B are I think closer to the mainstream than the experimental cutting edge. This, I suggest, is because while their working processes are collaborative, they use conventional theatrical resources and conventions in a largely transparent and 'natural' way. Meanwhile other, more theoretically oriented choreographers, like Bel, Le Roy, or Leheman, have for almost a decade been going out of their way to problematize and subvert these kinds of resources and conventions in ways that are often playful and ironic but can be satisfyingly demanding and challenging.

London audiences applauded both 'Wolf' and 'Tempus Fugit' with equal enthusiasm. In a strange correlation with the prevalent Euroscepticism of much of the national press, are we getting so out of touch with European aesthetic sensibilities that we are loosing our ability to make critical judgements?

Author:  Juliasw [ Sun Oct 24, 2004 4:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

Les Ballets C de la B & Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
‘Tempus Fugit’
Queen Elizabeth Hall – 16 October 2004
Reviewed by Julia Skene-Wenzel

Time – is it controlling us, or can we control time? Is it universal, or conditioned by cultural frameworks? Are two minutes always the same length, or can they be longer and shorter? Does individual perception alter time – can you master time?

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, one of four choreographers and directors of the artistic collective Les Ballets C de la B, sets out to challenge the apparent absoluteness of time. Celebrated as one of the brightest new talents in Political Dance Theatre, the twenty-eight year old Belgium-Moroccan created a stir with his debut piece ‘Rien de Rien’(2001) and firmly established himself as a major new player with the highly acclaimed ‘Foi’(2003). His latest production ‘Tempus Fugit’ aims to test our concept of time and transform it into a dance partner, rather than a controlling force.

Framed by two rows of iron trees, time unfolds on a green stage. Cherkaoui circles around one of the trunks - his slow and constant steps measuring time – his pathway symbolising the components that allow time to exist: rotation and gravity. Soon his rhythm is confronted by another dancer, who breaks into a fast-paced figure of eight and is gradually joined by the remaining performers – turning the wheel of time.
The beautiful voice of Najib Cherradi, chanting Arabic melodies, invites them back to childhood – in school the green floor turns into a chalk board, where memories can be written down, but also erased; their play turns into bullying, the rise of fame turns sour, the first romance leads into a seductive tango, then fast forwards into marriage and eventual death – to then rewind back to the ‘present’.
Every performer sings a tale, shares a piece of timeless memory and takes us on a momentary journey, constructing a thick layer of time fragments. The multi-national cast gives rise to varied accounts and slowly politics emerge - racism, gender suppression, the power struggle in the European Union… “Somebody has to be down, so that somebody can be up - so they tell me” announces a woman before she is wrapped up in a headscarf.

Through projections of earth, air and water, three elements that condition life, Cherkaoui opens the artificial stage space. He also frees his performers from restrictions of gravity, by using Chinese poles. Providing a structural component, he enables bodies to rise and fall, rotate and pivot high up in the air – do you control time, when you control the natural fall of a body?
His eclectic movement background engages acrobatics with unconventional pointe-work and merges native styles with contemporary patterns. However, it is the live songs and music that drive this piece forward and elevate dancers and audience into a constant cycle of energy. ‘Timeless’ melodies from Mediterranean and Arabic traditions blend and fuse with the scenes on stage, creating a thick tapestry of images, symbols, cultures and experiences.

‘Tempus Fugit’ has not got the violent impact of ‘Foi’, however its internal rhythm gives the piece an organic quality that is rare in Dance Theatre. Cherkaoui’s commitment to question the world around him has given rise to a melting pot of cultures, styles, ideas and concepts and with that his pieces are a true reflection of our contemporary world and remain on the forefront of European dance.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Oct 24, 2004 8:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

Tempus Fugit
By David Dougill for The Sunday Times

Two offerings for Dance Umbrella at Queen Elizabeth Hall explored themes of time, memory and fantasy in mixtures of dance, speech, music and striking visuals. Tempus Fugit, by the Flemish- Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Les Ballets C de la B, has a lovely decor of glittering silver trees atop tall poles, between, and up which, dancers perform acrobatics and an ascent in diagonal, like a passage to heaven.

click for more

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Oct 29, 2004 5:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Les Ballets C. de la B. / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: 15 &

Tempus Fugit
By Katie Phillips for The Stage

It is always hard to summarise the essence of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s work. It is another episode for his now recognisable community of mismatched misnomers - refugees, schoolchildren, celebrities, different cultures, races, sizes, religions and abilities - all thrown together in a structured hotchpotch of visual and aural mayhem. The company is as fearless as ever, not dwelling on anything yet managing to include so much.

click for more

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