From the edge of existence

A new, hypnotic work by the pioneering French company Preljocaj Ballet comes to Brighton

Charlotte Cripps
Friday 11 October 2013 09:10

Angelin Preljocaj, the French choreographer, returns to Sadler's Wells with Near Life Experience, set to a soundtrack performed by the French ambient-pop band Air, whose hits include "Sexy Boy" and the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's debut film, The Virgin Suicides.

Air have also been collaborating with the Italian writer Alessandro Baricco, for the spoken-word album of short stories taken from his novel City. But for now their dreamy, hypnotic electronic sounds suit the needs of Ballet Preljocaj, a ballet company formed in 1984 and now based in Aix-en-Provence.

In their new work, the 25-strong company is on a "quest into different physical states of the body", linked to transcendental experiences at the very edge of consciousness, says Preljocaj. "We verge on these states when we near zones that hover on the edge of existence ... in moments of fainting, during a trance, in the instant of ecstasy, or orgasm... The subject is elsewhere, carried off from himself, he is ravished."

Preljocaj started his career with classical dance, before turning to contemporary dance when he trained with, along others, the pioneering choreographer Merce Cunningham. In Near Life Experience he combines classical precision with instinctive movement.

The costumes - delicated, deconstructed shirts - have been designed by Balmain-trained fashion designer Gilles Rosier, who has worked for Christian Dior, Kenzo, Lacoste and Jean-Paul Gaultier. The production's set is minimal with unusual props such as balls of red wool and large glass bowls - to add to the piece's "intensity".

The piece marks the return of Ballet Preljocaj to Sadler's Wells after The Rite of Spring and Helikopter in 2002, and is part of a frenetic touring schedule - the company averages 100 performances a year. The company also organises a festival named "Corps a Coeur" every May. Along with the 30 pieces he has created for the company, Preljocaj has worked with the New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet in London, the Staatsoper in Berlin, the Gulbenkian Ballet from Lisbon and the Scala.

He choreographed Roméo et Juliette in 1990 for the Ballet de l'Opéra National de Lyon with scenery by Enki Bilal, and then Le Parc (1994) for the Ballet de L'Opéra de Paris. At the Festival of Châteauvallon, and then in Avignon, he created a ballet from a book by Pascal Guignard: a successful musical tragedy, L'Anoure (1995). In 1997, Preljocaj had another triumph when he created The Stravaganza for the New York City Ballet.

What does he hope to evoke from his latest piece? "Near Life Experience is an attempt to remove oneself from space and time. A sort of eclipse of the self, a quest through this imaginary amnios - a new expression in the space left by the body."

Ballet Preljocaj's 'Near Life Experience' is part of the Brighton Festival at the Brighton Dome, 18 May (01273 709709). Then at Sadler's Wells, 20-22 May, at 7.30pm (0870 737 7737)

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