4D - part of Sadler's Sampled

Choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Eastman - Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Sadler’s Wells

Pure by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Credit: Koen Broos

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s 4D absolutely fits the remit of Sadler’s Sampled, being revised and reworked duet samplings from his Origine (2008), TeZukA (2011), Babel (words) (2010), and Faun from In the Spirit of Diaghilev (2009).

Plus, unusually, a music video, Valtari, devised by Cherkaoui with director Christian Larson for the Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós. Set in a desolate derelict industrial complex—peeling walls, an Ozymandian civilization, a nod to Fukushima, and Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris, perhaps.

A couple (James O’Hara and Nicola Leahey) across a great divide dance at each other until they finally somehow surmount the impossible and meet in urgent erotic duet—in Cherkaoui’s signature bendy, Gordian knot body style.

Seeing four live and one swirling camera filmed duet in one production underlines Cherkaoui’s choreographic mastery, his tropes, his multi-cultural worldview and fixes his dance as a calligraphic art form, but as in any gala performance it can be too much of a good thing.

Matter, the first piece from Origine, has multi-talented dancer and singer Kazutomi ‘Tsuki’ Kozuki play all the necessary slavish objects in the life of a woman (Guro Nagelhus Schia).

Her pet, chair, car, mirror, lipstick, phone, coat, fan, her high heels, door and mat, bed and pillow, and shower—in ingenious and humorous comment on consumer necessities, until he gets absorbed in a video of a Japanese shopping mall.

Before the audience knows, the second piece, Pure (from TeZukA) begins, seguing seamlessly from the first. Three white screens, a man and girl in white (Guro Nagelhus Schia and Vebjørn Sundby) dance with each other in a misty landscape to oriental song.

Bodies entwine, link and fit, but then he leaves and she writes her emotions in dance and black ink on her body. He returns and tries to wipe it clean. Make it better? Is this a poem, a lament, as old as the red sun that never sets in the east?

Beautiful calligraphy I never tire of watching. Underwriting all this erotic script on and with the body is traditional Japanese and Korean, Sephardic and Syrian-Orthodox music, a Debussy remix, compositions from Olga Wojciechowska and Nitin Sawhney.

Wonderful world music, played and sung by Patrizia Bovi, Tsuba Hori, Mahabub Khan, Sattar Khan, Gabriele Miracle, Kazutomi ‘Tsuki’ Kozuki, and Olga Wojciechowska, that has a narrative we can surmise with our instincts and emotions if not our minds through the visual text on display.

Music and dance, languages that transcend speech, but, all the same, I hanker to know the words to the songs.

Sin (in collaboration with Damien Jalet), from Babel (words), is my favourite. Navala ‘Niku’ Chaudhari and Damien Fournier in baggy black trousers and bare torsos sign and signal, the body language moving from simple to fierce battle.

Under an overhead tilted mirror we see it in several dimensions, that two-backed beast. Two lovers seek domination in tussling love/hate match.

She is amazing, a mercurial warrior queen. In leg headlock, on his back, she wrestles him on the ground and wins, but then what? What use his lifeless body? Sensual, gymnastic, acrobatic, martial, she devours him whole: a breath-taking performance from Chaudhari.

Moppy hair shorn, James O’Hara is back in Faun, partnering Olivia Ancona. Two newly born creatures, innocent of the world, explore it and each other, her long hair the scarf that set off Nijinsky’s faun. Nuzzle, gambol, frolic, flex their supple rubber bodies not stiffened by time.

If you’re a fan of Sid Larbi Cherkaoui you know what to expect, and you return again and again. Those new to it will be swept away. The cheers at curtain call were deafening. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Cherkaoui does that.

Reviewer: Vera Liber