Back to the valley: Wim Vandekeybus and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui revisit Paul Bowles

Take two renowned choreographers, put them on stage together and you’re sure to draw a good crowd. But for anyone buying a ticket there’s always that fear: will those choreographers, with their busy schedules, be able to devote enough time to such a one-off collaboration and come up with something good? Unfortunately, IT 3.0, by Belgian choreographers Wim Vandekeybus and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, presented at Toneelhuis (Antwerp) – only  four performances – showed two choreographers struggling with their past and ways to update it.

IT 3.0 is based on a collaboration between Vandekeybus and Cherkaoui from 2002: IT premiered at the Festival d’Avignon (France) that year. It was a solo for Cherkaoui, directed by Vandekeybus, based on The circular valley, a short story by Paul Bowles, about a ghost, Atlájala, invading the bodies of animals and people. For the first performances they had a donkey on scene. Later on that ‘live’ donkey was replaced by images of a donkey on a movie screen.

As Cherkaoui wanted to change things for IT 3.0 and wasn’t to keen on being on stage all by himself again, they decided that Vandekeybus would join him. ‘We are the same ghost, but from a different hemisphere, with different temperaments’. Indeed, that’s a difference anyone will notice: Cherkaoui, elegant and zen, Vandekeybus, savage and brute. Another big change is that for this new version, Cherkaoui & Vandekeybus decided to have three musicians on stage (a trio led by renowned Belgian blues musician Roland Van Campenhout). They provide a live soundtrack and they read big parts of the story aloud.

With all due respect, but it turns out to be one of the weaknesses of this performance. If you decide to give that story some importance, then make sure that you have a gifted actor or author reading it. And for the rest? Throughout IT 3.0 you feel that Cherkaoui and Vandekeybus are still busy trying to find ways to update IT. How to incorporate that music, those images on the movie screen. How to respect that originial version and come up with something new as well. How to rightly balance all those elements. The body of Cherkaoui clearly remembers those moves from the past and one feels immediately drawn to his elegant and sometimes unbelievable movements. Vandekeybus is looking for his place, his part, for ways to add something valuable.

More info here. There’s no tour scheduled for ‘IT 3.0’ yet.

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