Ballet looks into what we really believeThe audacious vision of Les Ballets C. de la B. has propelled this Belgium collective to the forefront of modern dance. Since its inception 20 years ago, Les Ballets C. de la B. has presented provocative works that blur the distinction between high and low art, but most of all, inspire.
Even its name, a spoof on Les Ballets Contemporains de la Belgique, is a deliberate choice ― a French name followed by a rejection of the aesthetics of traditional European ballet companies.
The ensemble’s latest work, “Foi,” (Faith), which 18 dancers, actors and musicians will be staging at the LG Arts Center March 11 through 13, explores the faith of generations and nations.
The opening scene is a devastation of scattered bodies against a concrete backdrop. Dancers like angels mournfully walk by to 14th-century polyphonic music sung by Capilla Flamenca. The dead and the living grieve as the myths, legends and beliefs of different nations are examined.
The stories are a kaleidoscopic vision of the terrors of war, the violence inflicted by mankind and the human need for companionship ― from a woman with stars-and-stripes boxing gloves who randomly lashes out at those around her to a self-mutilating fanatic to a couple falling in love.
“Foi” premiered in 2003 and has thrilled audiences around the world, including in Paris, London, Berlin and Hong Kong. While each member of Les Ballets C. de la B., including a dancer trained in Korea and France, Kim Nam-jin, contributed to the creation of “Foi,” the choreographer billed is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Touted by the Guardian Unlimited as “a major talent,” Mr. Cherkaoui studied contemporary dance, hip-hop, modern jazz and Broadway dance and has won awards in London and Edinburgh for his choreography.
Now in his mid-20s, he grapples with topics such as war, race and culture, making him an ideal match for Les Ballets. Mr. Cherkaoui, who is of Moroccan and Flemish heritage, first worked with the Ballet as a dancer in “Let’s Op Bach.”
According to one review in the Dance Insider, Mr. Cherkaoui is a “quirky artist of the European post-Pina generation, he goes where many have gone before, recycling more than a few agitprop dance theater conventions, but adding twists that make his vision as big as the sky and wild as Vegas.”
The founder of Les Ballets, Alain Platel, deliberately chooses actors and dancers who greatly differ from one another or carry conflicting stories within. He’s worked with French dancers of North African descent and an Argentine dancer of Jewish descent.
One of the reasons for doing so, as he says on the company Web site, is: “On the one hand I wish to reveal what it is that somehow makes each of them unique human beings, while on the other hand showing what happens when a mixture of people attempt to live together. And how all this is associated with a great deal of pain, surprise and also humor.”
Over the years, Les Ballets has become a melting pot of artistic movements. Works such as “Foi,” “Wolf,” “Bach” and “Tempus Fugit” have all won international acclaim. Les Ballets hails Flemish companies Rosas, headed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Ultima Vez, created by Wim Vendekeybus, as esteemed peers.
As for Mr. Patel’s artistic vision, he says, “I think it would help us greatly to make progress if we did not always use history as an excuse to whitewash present turmoil. I sometimes dream of a collective amnesia from which we could all awaken, see the brutal reality and then deal with it.”
by Joe Yong-hee
Tickets are 30,000 to 60,000 won. For more information, visit the Web site at www.lgart.com, or call (02) 2005-0114.