Alain Platel / Les ballets C de la B (Belgium)
(c) Chris Van der Burght
Direction: Alain Platel
Composition and musical direction: Steven Prengels
Creation and performance: Bérengère Bodin, Boule Mpanya, Dario Rigaglia, David Le Borgne, Elie Tass, Ido Batash, Romain Guion, Russell Tshiebua, Samir M’Kirech
Dramaturgy: Hildegard De Vuyst
Musical dramaturgy: Jan Vandenhouwe
Artistic assistance: Quan Bui Ngoc
Set design: Berlinde De Bruyckere
Lighting design: Carlo Bourguignon
Sound design: Bartold Uyttersprot
Costume design: Dorine Demuynck
Stage manager: Wim Van de Cappelle
Photography: Chris Van der Burght
Production manager: Valerie Desmet
Tour manager: Steve De Schepper
Co-production: Ruhrtriennale, La Bâtie-Festival de Genève, La Biennale de Lyon, L’Opéra de Lille, MC93 – Maison de la Culture de la Seine-Saint-Denis, TorinoDanza, Holland Festival, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Kampnagel Hamburg
Distribution: Frans Brood Productions
With the support of: City of Ghent, Province East Flanders, the Flemish authorities and Port of Ghent
Thanks to: University of Ghent and Prof. Dr. Paul Simoens and Marianne Doom, Guy Cuypers & team, Alexi Williams, Bart De Pauw, Bob and Monir, K49814, Isnelle da Silveira, Lieven Vandeweghe, Griet Callewaert, the volonteers and staff of atelier Berlinde De Bruyckere, Pierre Philippe Hofmann, Manège de Hoefslag in De Pinte, Warner Classics1
A group of men gathers around some dead horses to perform a ritual. To put it all in one sentence, Nicht schlafen might retain the semblance of a story, but everything contradicts this notion too. The area of the archaic cult is bounded by a giant blanket, and amongst the men there is one woman – is this the staging of a new Rite of Spring? Will a woman be sacrificed once more to atone for failing masculinity?
The new production of director Alain Platel uses the work of the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler as its starting point, as proposed by Gerard Mortier. It wasn’t love at first sight for Platel. Initially, he did feel particular affinity with the era Mahler expresses in his work: an age of great acceleration and disruption leading up to World War I. But then, in the nervousness and aggressiveness, the passion and yearning for a lost harmony that’s expressed by Mahler’s music, Platel discovered a match for the images he’s looking for in his work.
The musical direction is in the hands of composer Steven Prengels. In the soundscapes, he puts the Mahler in contrast with African polyphonic chants and herds in sounds of cowbells or sleeping animals. In terms of stage-setting, this is the first collaboration between Alain Platel and visual artist Berlinde De Bruyckere. What these two have in common is a love for the big themes of suffering and death. Together with a group of nine dancers, they started the search for the potential of transformation, holding on to the shaky hope that things will not end in large-scale destruction. That potential, that possibility is what this group of dancers are after in every performance. No safety net. It’s a dance of life and death.
Les ballets C de la B was founded by Alain Platel in 1984. Since then it has become a company that enjoys great success at home and abroad. Over the years it has developed into an artistic platform for a variety of choreographers and dancers. The company still keeps to its principle of enabling artists from various disciplines and backgrounds to take part in this dynamic creative process. As a result of its “unique mixture of artistic visions”, Les ballets C de la B is certainly not easy to classify. It’s nevertheless possible to discern something like a house style (popular, anarchic, eclectic, committed), and the company’s motto is “this dance is for the world and the world is for everyone”.
Alain Platel is trained as a remedial educationalist and is an autodidact director. In 1984 he set up a small group with a number of friends and relatives to work collectively. Emma (1988) signalled his concentration on directing. He was responsible for Bonjour Madame (1993), La Tristeza Complice (1995) and Iets op Bach (1998), with which Les ballets C de la B rocketed to the international top. His other works are: Moeder en Kind (1995), Bernadetje (1996), Allemaal Indiaan (1999), Wolf (2003), Vsprs (2006), Nachtschade (2006), Nine Finger (2007), Baroque pitié! (2008), Out Of Context (2010), Gardenia (2010), C(H)ŒURS (2012), Tauberbach (2013). After Allemaal Indiaan he announced that he was stopping making productions. But shortly afterwards Gerard Mortier persuaded him to do Wolf based on Mozart for the Ruhrtriennale. Vsprs proved to be a turning point in his career. Platel consistently continues to search this language of movement for incarnations of feelings that are just too vast. The yearning for something transcending the individual is becoming more and more palpable. He also almost surreptitiously entered the arena of the dance cinematography together with the British director Sophie Fiennes – Because I Sing (2001), Ramallah! Ramallah! Ramallah! (2005), Vsprs Show and Tell (2007), and solo with de balletten en ci en là (2006), an impressive view of what goes on in a twenty-year-old dance company, taking us all the way to Vietnam and Burkina Faso, but also and mainly being an ode to his hometown Ghent.