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Christopher Duggan
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Eastman in 'Fractus V' at Jacob's Pillow.

ON DANCE: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Eastman at Jacob’s Pillow

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By Thursday, Jul 12, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

The man is a genius, the work is a masterpiece.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has created in, “Fractus V,” kinetic visual art, kinetic emotion and kinetic intellect — the perfect marriage of movement and message.

The dancers and musicians are present. They are doing and being rather then performing, thus allowing me to become a participant rather than an observer. They are all soloists, seamlessly and without ego, becoming part of a whole.

This is an experience not to be missed. It is about this moment in time. It articulates the very scary challenges we are facing daily. It is why art and artists are perhaps more important than news reports.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Eastman in ‘Fractus V’ at Jacob’s Pillow. Photo: Christopher Duggan

“Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s ‘Fractus V’ brings artists of nine different nationalities into dialog to create a work that is truly astonishing in its virtuosity and impact. There is a palpable and joyous community onstage. As these artists integrate their different creative practices, we witness the power of true cross-cultural collaboration right before our very eyes,” said Jacob’s Pillow director Pamela Tatge.

This work is woke. Siri Larbi Cherkaoui will be part of a pre-show talk Friday at 5 p.m. in Blake’s Barn. I hope to see you there.

P.S. I should also mention the display of appreciation the audience showed in their loud and enthusiastic standing ovation.

I include, as part of a discussion of this profound work, the thought process of the choreographer himself, which simply adds to my admiration of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui:

“In May 2014, I presented a short creation for the 40th anniversary of Pina Bausch’s Wuppertal Tanztheater. Fractus was a trio in which I wanted to discuss the fracture between the individual and society. The performance was inspired by the texts of the Jewish- American linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky. If I translate Chomsky’s ideas for myself, I gain the insight that:

The only way the individual is able to protect himself against political and social propaganda, is to study all the information available. Each day we are bombarded with news that tries to influence our thinking. It is a very intensive exercise to filter everything and to resist believing what we are told to believe.”

Looking for primary movements on the edge of the tribal and folklore, this short performance raised the desire for more.

In Fractus V, I want to deepen the questions on information and manipulation—propaganda versus amore “objective” and factual approach. I also take as a starting point “liberty of expression.” Certain taboos are often broken these days and certain truths are undeniable but we still miss the capacity to digest them or place them in the right context. Because of that we are often pushed into an “us versus them” mentality. We have the information, but we don’t know how to use it.

Questions I ask myself:

It seems certain freedoms still need to be framed? How neutral can our thinking be? How much do we identify ourselves with the causes of the injustices in society? Where does personal responsibility start or end?

Chomsky’s fundamental plea for “freedom of speech” against the political attempts to control and to manipulate the media, resonates with my need as an artist for a space to constantly reinvent my own identity. This necessary process of renewal doesn’t happen gradually. It happens through radical fractures and being able to let go of the past. Evolution is the combined result of an endless series of small and big revolutions. Every day is a rite of passage, a point of no return.

Fractus V is a creation with five very different contemporary dancers. The French virtuosic dancer Dimitri Jourde has a circus formation (Jourde shares his role with Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern in this production). The American Johnny Lloyd comes from a Lindy Hop background and is originally a musician. The Spanish dancer Fabian Thomé Duten started his career as a flamenco dancer with Joaquin Cortés, and Patrick Williams Seebacher (Two Face) earned his credits in hip-hop and breakdance battles.

I, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, enriched my own fluent dance language through exchange with different dance traditions for the past 15 years.

We all have different dance backgrounds but still put our movements in dialogue with each other. And we share the desire to create an interesting community, both on stage and in daily life.

The live music continues this philosophy. I collaborate with the Japanese percussionist and singer Shogo Yoshii, the Korean singer and musician Woojae Park, the African singer and musician Kaspy N’dia, and the Indian, virtuosic Sarod musician Soumik Datta. They are all experts in their own music traditions but also curious for cross-fertilizations. They are all musicians with whom I have already collaborated.

Nine different nationalities and outspoken identities will dialogue to come to an intense, dramatic, and fluent whole.

Fractus V stands for the natural fractures, that are necessary to grow and become stronger.”

(Editor’s note: The above quoted material comes from the program notes of the Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Eastman performance at Jacob’s Pillow.)


Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Eastman performs in the Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Massachusetts, through Sunday, July 15. For tickets and more information, see the Berkshire Edge calendar, go online to jacobspillow.org or call the box office at (413) 243-0745.

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