A must-see

This evening we went to see the world première of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Babel, co-written with Damien Jalet and with a set designed by Anthony Gormley. It was danced at the Cirque Royale, though it was a Monnaie production. I have been a fan of Cherkaoui’s ever since I saw him performing his plaintively beautiful Stabat Mater with Jalet at a Dance for Life production. His trade mark is the use of hand movements to create alternative languages, and he uses it to brilliant effect in Babel. Gormley’s simple empty cubes and rectangles (they are mere outlines of polished aluminium) are metamorphosed (I know, I should not do that) by the dancers into a series of sets, culminating in a wonderful riff where gradually the shape of the tower of Babel appears before the audience. Cherkaoui intersperses comic interludes with manic dances and geometric arrangements (the dancers were uniformly excellent in what looks to be a very demanding production, and they were also excellent actors), accompanied by Asiatic percussion and chanting. This is a must-see.