Interview choreografen Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui en Nicolas Vladyslav - Corpus Bach 

January 29th, 2023


Interview Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Nicolas Vladyslav- Corpus Bach

January 29th, 2023

On the occasion of our new BACH programme, we spoke with choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Nicolas Vladyslav about their piece Corpus Bach, which they created as a duet in 2005 and which is now being rehearsed as a quartet by the dancers of Introdans.

Introdans has many works by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in its repertoire. A logical question for him is therefore what the collaboration with Introdans means for him. Artistic director of Introdans Roel Voorintholt approached him about twelve years ago with the request to perform his existing works. Voorintholt says about this: “Dance is art and is in fact only complete when it is performed on stage. If you never dance or touch it afterwards, you are in fact throwing it away and that is a shame. Why shouldn’t you be able to enjoy a beautiful choreography that has already been made years later?” Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui can agree with this. “In 2005 I made “Corpus Bach” together with Nicolas. I really like the idea of resuming the duet – which we danced together at the time -, transforming it into a quartet and passing it on to the next generation of dancers. So for me, Corpus Bach is a look back in history, but with a contemporary interpretation.”

Nicolas Vladyslav: “What was very nice is that when I saw the movements again and started to do the dance again, my body very quickly knew what to do. In that respect, the ‘memory of the body’ is also very strong. As a dancer I already knew that, but because we didn’t dance Corpus Bach that much back then, it was really nice to experience it now.”

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui talks about working with the Introdans dancers: “In the beginning of our collaboration, the dancers were afraid not to perform the movements properly. Now I see much more guts as they put their own character into it. They are more comfortable making their own choices and there is plenty of room to interpret it differently or add something to it. Sometimes I think it very nice and sometimes I think ‘if you pull it that way, it won’t be able to be what it’s supposed be anymore’. It’s always a good exercise for them, but also for me; how free can you be?”

Dance for finding structure
As a child, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui wanted to draw reality, with pen and paper. He started dancing when those two dimensions were no longer enough. “I think I became a choreographer to look for structure that I couldn’t find in the world around me.”

“Just as the music was an etude for Bach, so is my approach in Corpus Bach. There’s a part where the dancers are constantly drawing their feet across the floor, as if you never take your foot off the floor. That is one way of drawing the partitude. Those are motifs that I also used in a performance like Loin. All those choreographies are interrelated. Sometimes you recognize a certain line or language in several parts, sometimes not at all. In Corpus Bach I was also working on certain isolations; with only moving the legs or just the arms. Or the body is completely motionless and the dance partner body is the one moving. The ‘corpus part’ in Corpus Bach is to impose limitations on the body and see what I can do.”

Cooperation Vladyslav and Larbi
In 2005 cellist Roel Dieltiens asked Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to dance to his live music. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui then came up with the idea of asking Nicolas Vladyslav to do it together, like two strings around the cello. At Introdans, the piece is now accompanied live by cellist Detmar Leerketen.
Larbi says about the collaboration with Nicolas Vladyslav: “It was a great experience to be able to dance together. With Nicolas as co-creator, but also us together as two performers, we had a constant interaction. Ideas were fired at each other in a very spontaneous and simple way. I haven’t worked with Nicolas since then and it’s really nice to go back to that time, so to speak.

Nicolas Vladyslav adds: ““It was very nice how the division but also the interpretation of the movements to the music came about with each other. It was an organic process and we only had to listen to the music. This led to logical decisions for us, such as on which parts we danced together or to let the cellist play alone during a part, without dance.”

Exercise in musicality
In Corpus Bach’s choreography, the music has been leading for the movements Nicolas Vladyslav and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui have made to it. Vladyslav says: “For me, music is always the first inspiration for everything I make. I still know every note in the music of Corpus Bach, that music is in my heart. It is also great to see how other dancers are dancing it now. It makes me want to just join them.”

Larbi explains that Corpus Bach is a choreography built on a certain part of your body. “There are different places in the body that you can lean on. Sometimes on your elbow, sometimes on your head or shoulder. For the rest, it is also an exercise in musicality. That’s really not easy. For certain movements you need gravity to perform them, but at the same time you have to be ‘to the music’ in time. That demands enormous discipline from the dancer. In the end it is a kind of calculation, a compass, you sometimes have to turn and then draw a line again and unfold something again. An extensive physical exercise that demands a lot from the dancers. It is not about beautiful shapes, but about the way in which one thing transforms into another.”

This time Corpus Bach is danced with four dancers. “The added value, when you do a piece again, is to look at expansion and whether you can create an even better relationship between the music and the movements. I had just done Harbor Me with Introdans last fall, and that was a trio. Pure before that was a duet. So the choice to now do a quartet for Corpus Bach was very fitting.”

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is currently the artistic director of the ballet department of Le Grand Théâtre de Geneve in Switzerland. He left Opera Ballet Vlaanderen for this. He also tours with performances by his own company Eastman. “I am still very motivated to show my works to the public. I know dance can really change your life. I therefore hope that my performances really encourage someone to start dancing, as a springboard to become interested in dance. Sometimes I do that with performances that have text or that have specific music. With Corpus Bach it is only classical music and one instrument, the cello. So it’s very hermetic and at the same time it’s also very popular because everyone knows Bach’s music. I think the great thing about this music is that everyone has a choreography in their head, as it were, but when you see the dancers move to it, you put it on a different track.”

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