Flemish-Moroccan. Choreographer. Draughtsman. Vegan. Homosexual. A child of the suburbs. Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders and his own company, Eastman. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui never fails to remind us that our identities are fluid and multiple, never monolithic nor static. Such reminders resound in Babel 7.16, whose 'original version', Babel (Words) - made with long-time associates Damien Jalet and Antony Gormley - was an urgent enquiry into language and territory. This thirst to dialogue and join hands with his counterparts has been a constant in Cherkaoui's artistic DNA, as exemplified in pieces like Genesis with the Chinese dancer Yabin Wang, Dunas alongside flamenco exponent Maria Pagès and Ook, made with Nienke Reehorst and the mentally disabled actors of Theater Stap. But Cherkaoui's collaborations cut across all artistic disciplines: cinema, with Joe Wright's Anna Karenina; theatre, with Pluto, for the Bunkamura Theatre in Tokyo; the opera Shell Shock for La Monnaie in Brussels; and sequences of Cirque du Soleil shows Michael Jackson ONE and Kurios. In 2009, Cherkaoui was awarded the Kairos Prize by Alfred Töpfer Stiftung in recognition of his artistic philosophy, and in 2011, UNESCO lauded his work in “promoting intercultural dialogue between the Arab and Western worlds”. He returns to the Avignon Festival for the fifth time, after It (made with Wim Vandekeybus in 2002), Tempus Fugit (2004), Sutra (2008) and Puz/zle (2012).
Portrait © Koen Broos