A generous gift to his fans: ‘4D’, five duets by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Sometimes there’s no denying someone’s talent. But just because of that talent, you tend to be just a little bit more demanding, cause you expect nothing less than perfection. And so I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit disappointed, after 4D, by acclaimed choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, which premiered at Toneelhuis (Antwerp). A dance evening comprising four duets from previous performances, with the video for Sigur Rós‘s Valtari as a little extra.
Let there be no misunderstanding. From a purely choreographic perspective, you’ll have a wonderful evening. It’s a joy to watch these lovely, beautifully choreographed duets, with live music by a group of musicians sitting at the back of the stage. As a generous gesture by an acclaimed choreographer; a little present to his fans. The problems I was having with 4D, mostly had to do with how the programme was put together.
For 4D Cherkoui has selected Matter, from his piece Origine (2008) and Pure, which was commissioned by the Flemish dance festival Dansand (2010) and which was also a part of TeZukA (2011). The second part of the evening consists of Sin (from Babel (words)), co-created with Damien Jalet, and finally Faun, commissioned by Sadler’s Wells (London) in 2009 for a mixed bill as an ode to Sergei Diaghilev; with Claude Debussy mixed with Nitin Sawhney and costumes by Hussein Chalayan. On top of that you get to watch, after the first half of the evening, Christian Larson‘s video for Valtari, by Iceland rock band Sigur Rós, centered around a really stirring duet by Cherkaoui.
To me, lowering that film screen, in the middle of the programme, felt awkward. It was the icing on the cake that sort of ruined the cake. Sure, you want some sugar in your coffee, but too much sugar makes it undrinkable. It felt as if Cherkaoui was overdoing it. (Why not, for instance, save it as an ‘encore’?) Especially as Sin, probably my favorite duet of the evening, suffered from it. Suddenly it looked as a needless repetition of what you had just seen. Moreover: you can’t win, as a dancer on a stage, when a camera has just shown on a big screen every little detail from the right angle, from a similar duet. (Nevertheless: great idea, the mirror image of those two dancers, on that giant mirror hovering over the stage, in Sin.)
Repetition. In fact: that’s what probably bothered me about this evening. Five times in a row you get a woman and a man in more or less the same situation: pushing and pulling, attraction and repulsion, fusion and separation. As a painter using the same colors, but using different brushes on a different support. I know that it’s probably one of the core elements of a duet, but nevertheless: there must be other things one can do with two people on stage. And another thing: Sin and Faun (and Valtari of course) worked really well as ‘free standing’ duets. But Matter and Pure didn’t do that well. They suffered from being lifted from a larger piece, from their context, from what they were linked to.
But, once again, fans of Cherkaoui’s work will certainly enjoy 4D. And they too will probably be surprised to notice that his vocabulary, as a choreographer, is more classical than they had thought it to be. No wonder the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris has booked him for a new choreography: a Boléro.