Les ballets C de la B

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Caption: Les ballets C de la B, courtesy of Sadler Wells Theatre.

Friday 30th June, UK premiere of golden Metal (2016) Alain Platel’s Les ballets C de la B- Nicht Schlafen at Sadler Wells Theatre.

 Dead horses amassed in a chaotic pile in the middle of a sombre and ebony stage is the first image that the public receives. It is a clue; this is not going to be a placid dance. Instead, emotions are going to be subverted and the eyes shocked.

With an eclectic mix of anarchy and ambiguity, Platel marries Gustav Mahler’s music to create an intense physical representation of incertitude, violence, frustrations and joy, yet the dramatic reality of human condition.

The selected Mahler’s score has been composed between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, just before the World Wars and the totalitarian age, and it offers Platel the perfect opportunity to build a strong parallelism with the present.

The nine dancers with outstanding bodies, dressed with ripped up clothes, that they destroyed in the first scene, express strong emotions, contradictions, extreme gayness and sombre movements, hope and disappointment, even moment of irony and fun into a sick dance. Each one of them clearly stands for a specific culture, such as African, Islamic, American, European and so on, with only one girl present.

The movements are continuous and the African polyphonic chants and ancestral sounds provided by Platel’s regular collaborator Steven Prengels, merge with the classical symphonies of the Austrian composer, confronting Western music with African culture. They provide the occasion for several references to the current empowerment of Africa. In particular, into one of the last scenes the multicultural dancers seem to be progressively converted to Africanism, as they all start participating into a stunning Afro dance. This ends with only the African dancers continuing, while the others seem to go back to their respective roots, this time peacefully. But suddenly the music changes, and it is the pandemonium again.

Hard to fall asleep, that’s what ‘Nicht Schlafen’ means.

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