Candoco Dance Company/Jérôme Bel: The Show Must Go On at Sadler’s WellsCultureTheatre
There are fine lines where dance and non-artistic movement overlap, and there are subtle nuances that distinguish performing from being one’s self. Choreographer Jérôme Bel is known for creating provocative pieces using dance as a starting point but invariably expanding into all-encompassing explorations of the concept of performance. His work usually has a taste of the philosophical, but it is done without coming across as abstract or detached, as one may expect from avant-garde performances. On the contrary, his work abounds in humour and humanity.
The Show Must Go On was first devised in 2001, and it has metamorphosed countless times since then through various performances worldwide and a constantly changing cast. The title itself alludes to resilience and durability, but re-staging assistant Henrique Neves explains that while “there’s a structure that keeps it together, each time it’s different. It depends on the personalities [of the dancers] and the cultural context.”
This time it’s being remade by the Candoco Dance Company: a mix of professionals and amateurs, disabled and non-disabled performers dancing freely as a DJ plays extremely popular songs, which each dancer interprets in a unique and individual way. Through dance they overcome the most challenging aspect: exposing themselves as they are rather than performing in the traditional sense. In a Brechtian kind of spirit, the audience is forced to look at the performers as people. The dancers wear ordinary clothes and occasionally stare at the audience with wonder, searching for eye contact and a connection. It’s an exchange that seeks to question our often rigid notions around the roles of “viewer” and “performer”.
Jérôme Bel teases the audience by eluding their expectations and testing their reactions to unexpected choices. Focusing on the dynamics of a performance more than the dancing itself is a rare approach for a choreographer to take, but he seems to acknowledge the audience as an active player in his work, believing that each set of spectators provides a unique energy that bounces back to the stage and feeds the performance.
The dancers’ total lack of inhibition proves that emotion can surpass technique, and expression outweigh precision. The concept of dance is stripped down to the essentials – movement and feeling – and so the criteria for what can be classified as performing automatically expands. Much more than an unattainable skill reserved for the few, Bel views dance as a universal medium of expression, a liberating act, and sometimes even an urge that neither age, inexperience nor physical limitations can suppress.
The Show Must Go On is on at Sadler’s Wells until 21st March 2015, for further information or to book visit here.