Apt613 spoke with Cathy Levy, producer of the NAC Dance program, about Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and his work.
Apt613: Tell me about the relationship between the NAC and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Cathy Levy: I first saw his work in Paris when he was with . His choreography was so original and strong that I became a fan right away. I then had the opportunity to bring his second major work for the company, Foi, to the NAC. I was a bit concerned because it was a very edgy, emotionally strong piece. But people were so moved and his approach really resonated with audiences. I guess that’s when I officially became a groupie!
We then started co-producing with Larbi, first with Zero Degrees, which he created with another of our favourites, Akram Khan, and then with his work Orbo Novo, inspired by Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight. Honestly, we could do a whole season of his work. He has collaborated with so many different kinds of artists and his work has expanded in such a big way. Most recently we presented m¡longa, an exquisite, mesmerizing piece, in Southam Hall.
What do you think is special about Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s work?
I just think he is unafraid. He explores sensitive questions about identity. He is curious about everything, and that comes through in his work in such an extraordinary way. Even if he has his moments of questioning or doubt, there’s such a sense of courage of going forward to find answers.
His subject matter is often deep and profound, and at same time beautiful. Larbi has developed a signature movement language that is very lyrical. It has a depth that requires a particular type of mind – a kind of keen intellect.
How did the Fractus V project evolve?
The original short version of Fractus V was commissioned by the famous German choreographer Pina Bausch as part of the 40th anniversary of her company. I loved it and really wanted the NAC to be a partner to expand that piece, so we committed to supporting him – financially and otherwise. He was then able to take Fractus V, which was originally a trio, and expand it to a full-length piece with five dancers, along with musicians performing live on stage.
What can audiences expect to see at the Fractus V performance?
They’ll see some very tricky and powerful aesthetics, informed by both urban and contemporary dance. Fractus V is very movement-based, with a lot of gorgeous sequences. The five male dancers are from very different backgrounds and Larbi himself in an incredible performer.
The piece keeps growing as it moves over time and there are lots of unexpected surprises. For example, there are some very hip uses of set pieces – platforms that the performers move like pieces of a puzzle to create different settings. It’s so cool!
There is a very clear relationship between the music, the dance and the Noam Chomsky text, which talks about communication and how it feeds issues in the world. It’s not esoteric – it’s right in your face.
Why do you think people should see this show?
Well, I can tell you that it just premiered in London, England and there was an amazing reaction. It received standing ovations and huge critical acclaim. We’re so lucky to have this opportunity to see artists like Sidi Larbi Cherkoui right here in Ottawa. You don’t have to go to New York to see his work – I think audiences really should take advantage of this.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Fractus V will be presented at the NAC Theatre this Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, there will be a free pre-performance talk about the choreography of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui at 6:30 pm in the NAC Salon.