Sadler’s Wells
London

28th October 2016

Stuart Sweeney

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is a remarkable dance artist. He creates work of a consistently high standard, collaborating with dancers from a wide range of styles encompassing classical Indian dance and tango among others. Any new Sidi Larbi work is an event, but in this case we also see him dance and while I hope he carries on for some time yet, there may not be too many more opportunities.

"Fractus V" by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Photo: Filip Van Roe

“Fractus V” by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Photo: Filip Van Roe

Fractus V takes its inspiration from various writings of Noam Chomsky, focusing on government manipulation of information and news and the dilemma that good information is there but it takes too much time for working people to research and digest. While we can all hope for greater things from our news providers and commentators, and news outlets in countries such as Russia and Turkey are controlled and sometimes hounded by their governments, developments such as Wikileaks and newspapers such as The Guardian, maybe run contrary to the Chomsky model. But here the dancers are collaborators working to maintain the freedom of information and this is reflected in the wide range of styles on show.

With an all male group of five dancers and four musicians, there is an extraordinary diversity on show and in all the styles the standard of dance and choreography is mesmerising. Stand out scenes include a flamenco duet starting at opposite sides of the stage for Sidi Larbi and Fabien Thome Duten and later, complex gestural work for groups of the dancers, perhaps portraying the difficulty of getting to the truth, but that cooperation can be one route. The political context is also shown through tortured solos with dancers at their wits end and scenes of simulated violence with gun shots resonating round the theatre. On a lighter note we also see seductive, hip swaying dance which reminded me of film of Filipino midnight club dancers. Sidi Larbi’s extraordinary facility for choreographing tight knit ensembles creates innovative patterns and shapes throughout.

"Fractus V" by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Photo: Filip Van Roe

“Fractus V” by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Photo: Filip Van Roe

The innovative set design credited to Herman Sorgeloos and Sidi Larbi presents a collection of white right angled triangles, sometimes forming patterns on the floor or standing edge on and on one occasion, placed a few feet apart and creating a domino fall around the stage.

The music was also an eclectic delight with Korean, British Indian, Japanese and Congolese artists working together seamlessly. In particular, Woojae Park from Korea played a wide range of instruments including an Asian version of a hammered dulcimer. I also enjoyed the taiko drumming of Shogo Yoshi and the singing of Kaspy N’dia.

Despite indicating the problems we face in this new information or misinformation age, in Fractus V Sidi Larbi gives us hope that collaboration between individuals from different cultures can help overcome the hurdles. In these problematic times with populist politicians coming to the fore across the world, encouragement not to lose faith in fundamental freedoms is very welcome.

"Fractus V" by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Photo: Filip Van Roe

“Fractus V” by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Photo: Filip Van Roe