If the movement is original but induces nausea, should a critic complain or celebrate?

I didn’t do either in my review for the Financial Times tomorrow of the popular European choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Orbo Novo. There were other things, for which I felt distinct dislike, such as the dance’s confusion about its stance towards its material (a woman entering nirvana by suffering–if that’s even the right way to put it– a stroke). It’s okay for the choreographer to be ambivalent, but the ambivalence needs to be part of the work’s structure rather than passed off surreptitiously on the viewers. 

So about that movement, Cherkaoui has devised an edgeless, Gumby style mosaic of motion. No limb ever straightens all the way; no phrase ever finishes, it simply subsides. After a while it makes me feel blurry. On the one hand, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before (though nearly). On the other, I don’t really care if I see anything quite like it again.

Is newness so important that it doesn’t matter what is new?


Speaking of novelty and problems, I’d been listening to Saul Bellow’s Augie March on CD and marveling over–everything, really, but I guess what I could land on as blowing my mind was the way he lined up adjectives, each one pushing and pulling against the ones nearby to create something entirely more alive than each would be alone. It infected me and I tried my own version. Couldn’t pull it off.  

Here’s a bit of the Cherkaoui review. (And here’s the whole review): 

Like many ironists, Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui harbours a secret gushy heart, and in Orbo Novo it leaks out.

The fault may lie with the 70-minute work’s inspiration, neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s Oprah-endorsed account of chancing upon a world of peace, love and understanding: the right hemisphere of her brain. When a blood vessel burst in the chattering, contentious, obsessive-compulsive left half, “the little voice that says, ‘Hey, remember to pick up bananas on the way home’,” went mute, she writes, and left her “an energy being” floating in the here and now, “perfect, whole and beautiful”.

This first stateside commission for Cherkaoui – from Cedar Lake, New York’s answer to pointe-free athletico-conceptual European contemporary dance – begins by throwing up defensive barriers to Taylor’s woozy utopia…..

For the whole thing: here

I go on to complain about the dancers. I know half the town adores the Cedar Lake crew–as do many professional dancers in illustrious New York companies–so what’s wrong with me? There’s something about them that seems professional in the bad sense: proficient, versatile, but insufficiently invested in the movement before them. I have no doubt they’re invested in dancing, but I’m not convinced they care enough about what they’re dancing. It’s the liability of an ominivore rep company.

Here, though, some dancers I liked:


Golan Yosef, Jon Bond, Acacia Schachte, Jason Kittelberger. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

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