Babel is the third installment of the biblical stories created by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoi, the previous two being ‘Foi’ and ‘Myth’. Cherkaoi created them with help from his co-choreographer Damien Jalet. Babel came to Sadlers Wells in May 2010. The word Babel derives from a biblical story ‘The Tower of Babel’. The dictionary describes it as ‘a tower built in an attempt to reach heaven, which God frustrated by confusing the languages of its builders so that they could not understand one another (Genesis 11:1–9)’.
Within this essay I will discuss the piece in five main sections; the dancers, the intent, the set, the overall feel and the supporting evidence. The Dancers I feel the choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, obtained his dancers in a very true way. He chose dancers that were removed from their native towns, making it true to the biblical story as each were not comfortable with the English language and culture. Taking influences from all cultures and mixing them together, proving that even though they didn’t share the same language they were capable of coming together and working in unison.
Another method of his choosing that I found interesting was that he never auditioned dancers, he kept it very personal by employing friends of friends, which enforces a personalisation to the piece, as they were true people who were hand picked, as opposed to technique dancers dancing choreography. The Intent The intent was clear from the beginning and I feel the piece was too long, revisiting the same idea that we had already established at the very start.
The piece was about communication on different levels, it showed this by having a community of culture on stage ranging from the ancient (a motherly Indian woman) to the futuristic (a dominatrix robot doll), this was emphasised on stage when they were separated in different boxes. I enjoyed how Cherkaoui showed how both extremities (the ancient and futuristic) came together, proving we still use ancient traditions today; this was shown when the ancient woman was cleaning the robots. Whether the piece flowed or fragmented is questionable.
I feel bits flowed beautifully, for example; there was an explanation about the touch neurons in the body that slid into a contact duet. Overall I feel it was fragmented due to the fact that it was too accessible and fast paced leaving no time to reflect, and no time to piece things together. Maybe this was Cherkaouis intent, maybe he didn’t want us to get too comfortable in one moment, and maybe he wanted us to be confused, this would make sense as the story of Babel included people not understanding one another.
Another example of this is when they all start speaking their native languages. We couldn’t understand but we could still follow, this arose another interesting question; did it make you feel arrogant that you could not understand? The set The frames were the main focus throughout the piece dividing the space, and clearly representing different things. One thing I found most interesting was that all the metallic frames were completely different but each shared the same volume. This arose another interesting question; are we all equal with different exteriors?
I felt the frames were the most memorable and striking things throughout the piece, it was choreography in itself. It was interesting how they kept moving around the space cutting through it making the whole piece seem so dynamic and fresh. They explored the space on stage, the space around the body, and the body in the space. I thought it was beautiful when all the frames come together representing the story of Babel beautifully. All these different cultures and characters working together in a delicate manner to construct the tower.
I feel the timing of construction was beautiful also, it wasn’t rushed and it was one of the most memorable parts of the piece for me. This, alike the dancers showed a clash of culture, with the metallic frames and the wooden instruments in the background. Overall Overall I feel the piece was a little too long, it went in and out of ideas without actually concluding any, making the audience feel confused and agitated. It incorporated some humourous parts that lifted the atmosphere a little but overall I feel it wasn’t enjoyable.
A conclusion or even an interval may have made the piece better. In all, I feel a little time to reflect was the missing element the piece needed in order to become a success. Review Here shows two professional reviews supporting my claims; “There were times when it felt like the audience had wandered into Les Ballets C de la B by mistake but without the impact. It is inescapable that Babel (words) could benefit from a great deal of cutting and attention paid to the form of the piece.
Each section went on and on without adding anything new and there was a constant sense of climax and anti-climax that never really went anywhere or built to a satisfying conclusion. “ (http://www. ballet. co. uk/magazines/yr_10/jun10/ck_rev_sidi_larbi_cherkaoui_0511. htm) “Cherkaoui has funny scenes that go on too long, bright ideas and a wandering structure. Babel (words) drifts through ideas about language and communication, before deciding, rather predictably, that we’re all human together. ” (The Observer)