Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Going to the Dogs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Going to the Dogs

Article excerpt


The controversial choreographer Alain Platel's latest work takes a look at life on society's margins. But why does he need 14 hounds to make his point?

A BALLERINA in black platforms and red wig with suggestive little horns slinks on the stage. She has long limbs and beguiling eyes, and a miniature collie snuggled down the front of her blue lame leotard. Then she squats and gives birth to the pup, who lands on his feet, shakes his tail, and scampers off to join his canine friends.

Wolf, the striking new show from Les Ballets C de la B, by Alain Platel, features 12 dancers, three opera singers, 19 musicians, Mozart's music, flag-burning, an all-male orgy, and 14 dogs roaming the stage. Sometimes the dogs interact with the dancers and singers, but, mostly, the pack of collies, labradors and ragtaggity mongrels sniff the set, sniff each other, and idly watch the operaballet they're an unpredictable part of.

The piece defies easy definition, something its choreographer is quick to admit. "Some people have called it a kind of opera," says Platel, the Belgian dancer whose mild manner little hints at his bold, often brutal stage creations. "Others see it as theatre, or opera-ballet. I think of it as all these arts coming together."

Platel often fuses different art forms, but it's the jettisoning of theatrical conventions that distinguishes his work. Out go the harmony and symmetry of classical ballet. Out go drama's linear narrative and opera's nicely dressed beauties. Out goes every theatrical anchor as Platel weaves a seemingly chaotic mix of opera, ballet, hiphop, circus and karaoke.

Wolf has no obvious plot, no lead characters, no resolved storyline.

Instead, a collection of stories about the damaged and dispossessed, on the edge of society. The only constants are Mozart's vibrant arias - and the dogs.

"My original idea was just an image of a dilapidated shopping mall with wild dogs running around," explains Platel. "They represent an atmosphere of menace and fear, not safe domesticity. During one performance, there was a fight among the dogs, which scared everyone, and I was struck by that first reaction."

Platel's company is on a European tour with Wolf, which ends at the prestigious Paris Opera House next spring. It's a mark of the choreographer's status that the Paris authorities are happy to have dogs treading their hallowed boards - hardly something you can imagine at Covent Garden.

In the flesh, dressed in comfortable shoes and sensible clothes, he is more off-duty tax inspector than innovative dance maker. In fact, there is little about this unassuming Belgian that suggests the orgies and blood he has feat u red in his work. His route to contemporary theatre is similarly unexpected. …

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