top of page

"Faun" and "Noetic" by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in Barcelona

The choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui returned to the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona with the duo of choreographies "Faun/Noetic", both performed by the Grand Ballet de Genéve.

In the gaze of the Belgian choreographer and dancer, the symbiosis between cultures and movements is almost always accompanied by a philosophical line, resulting in a communicative dance that transcends diversity of bodies, perceptions, and contexts. Through an artistic ideology formed by collective work and aesthetic recreation in dance constructions, the diptych formed by "Faun" (2009) and "Noetic" (2014) were well differentiated but united by the same elegance of movements and imaginative projection.

Between the human and the animal, the primitive and the civilized

The choreographer unfolds in "Faun" all the eroticism of "L'après-midi d'un faune" (The Afternoon of a Faun), the mythical revolutionary choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, premiered by the Ballets Russes in 1912 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

The piece lasting 16 minutes was commissioned by the Sandler's Wells theatre in London to celebrate the centenary of the Ballets Russes in co-production with several theaters such as the Chaillot in Paris, the Monaco Dance Forum, the TNC, and the Mercat de les Flors.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui offers a personal interpretation of Nijinsky's choreography "L'après-midi d'un faune", which premiered with scandal in 1912, set to an impressionist score by Claude Debussy. This piece was a significant musical milestone, as Debussy pushed the traditional system of keys and tonalities to their limits.

Inspired by a poem by the symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, it describes the sensual experiences of a faun who has just awakened from his nap and speaks of his encounters with various nymphs during the previous morning.

“These nymphs that I would perpetuate:

so clear

And light, their carnation, that it floats in the air

Heavy with leafy slumbers.

Did I love a dream?

My doubt, night’s ancient hoard, pursues its theme

In branching labyrinths, which being still

The veritable woods themselves, alas, reveal

My triumph as the ideal fault of roses.”

Despite Nijinsky's dancers remaining quite two-dimensional, resembling figures on a Greek vase, in Cherkaoui's version, the mythological and animalistic aspects are much more pronounced, expressed through a movement language that truly becomes multi-dimensional.

Dancer James O'Hara takes on the male role. In this rendition, more attention is paid to the faun being half-human and half-animal: his movements are wilder and more carefree. Daisy Phillips, in the role of the nymph in the original version, is deeply rooted in the forest. The interaction between them is innocent, yet laden with sexual tension, much like in Nijinsky's choreography. They possess the playfulness of children but also present themselves, in a way, as old and archaic souls seeking each other in a fierce environment, traversed by chiaroscuro.

The music flows almost unnoticed from one style, culture, and century to another. Hussein Chalayan's costumes are natural and organic, yet synthetic: the characters are thus eternal archetypes but also creatures of today.

Exploring the interconnected nature of existence

"Noetic", lasting 55 minutes, stands out as the centre piece of the evening, offering an unprecedented visual, aesthetic, and philosophical experience.

The word "noetic" originates from Greek and refers to a relationship with thought. In philosophy, it is defined as the intuitive pursuit of knowledge, already present within ourselves and the universe, manifesting repeatedly.

"Noetic" explores the idea that a straight line is a curve and that everything can be connected through the form of a circle. It differs significantly from "Faun" as Sidi Larbi aimed for a group effort, involving all twenty-one dancers of the company.

During "Noetic" rehearsals, the dancers were encouraged to work collectively, rather than individually, to bring out a shared collective subconscious. The result is a chain reaction of movements, a flow, similar to a flock of birds or a fish school in the water. The dancers flow into each other and intertwine elegantly and naturally, but also with passion and conviction.

A fantastic Taiko drum performance by Shogo Yoshii triggers a magnetic and mysterious dance that evokes the atmosphere of offices and money.

At times, the dancers seem to be part of a delicate clockwork mechanism, the building blocks of the inner workings of society. The choreographic material oscillates between the ethereal, the liquid, and the solid.

Cherkaoui's choreographic performance offers a profound reflection on our intimate connection to the world around us. It transcends the limits of the stage to offer us a unique philosophical perception of the world through mathematics in movement. By manipulating various elements that act as catalysts, such as three long rods, the dancers explore space, creating endless paths and spheres that inexorably bend the force of gravity.

The microcosm reflected in the macrocosm leads to the idea that patterns and phenomena observed on a small size are reflected and repeated on larger ones, suggesting a fundamental unity in all things. This notion is related to the concept of fractals and the idea that nature is organized according to patterns repeated at different scales.

Commitment to exploring new forms of expression

The Ballet du Grand Théatre Genève was established as a company in 1962 and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has been its director since July 2022. This renowned dancer and choreographer of the Belgian contemporary scene has produced several significant works, often engaging in enriching interdisciplinary collaborations with visual artists, designers, and musicians.

After seven years at Ballet Vlaanderen, he continues to create some of today's most remarkable works, often engaging in fertile interdisciplinary collaborations with visual artists, designers, and musicians.


Text: Nerea Menor

Photography: Gregory Batardon


bottom of page