Come One, Come All

On Jérôme Bel's Gala at HAU, Berlin 

‘Come one, come all. Men and women, children of all ages!’ This familiar refrain, which calls up the image of a friendly street bard, also reflects the universalizing ethos of French choreographer Jérôme Bel’s performance work Gala (2015).

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Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, performance documentation, HAU, Berlin, 2016. Photograph: Dorothea Tuch

Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, performance documentation, HAU, Berlin, 2016. Photograph: Dorothea Tuch

Last month as part of Berlin Art Week, Gala was presented at Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer theatre, where viewers could see as cast and collaborators of many vintages, appearances and abilities joined Bel onstage. All were dressed in zany costumes, from spacey fluorescent leotards, to lace tutus. One after another, they interpreted classic dance moves: pirouettes were executed with spin-top precision and touching wobbliness; smooth and not-so-smooth criminals slipped and stuttered across the stage, attempting Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. During the waltz portion of the performance, a wheelchair-bound man cut graceful crescents, in concert with his sure-footed partner. The show’s climax arrived as each performer executed a solo, with the others parroting, en masse.

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Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, performance documentation, HAU, Berlin, 2016. Photograph: Dorothea Tuch

Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, performance documentation, HAU, Berlin, 2016. Photograph: Dorothea Tuch

Bel’s spectacle takes the discipline of choreography into the electrifying, beautiful and clumsy space between pedestrian gesticulation and popular culture. Boiling with positivity, it also enacts crucial arguments against ableism and ageism. Bel’s is a deeply political flourish of mimesis.

Gala will be performed at the Tanzquartier in Vienna on 25, 27 and 29 October before travelling to a number of venues in the US and Europe. See Jérôme Bel’s website for more details.

Main image: Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, performance documentation, HAU, Berlin, 2016. Photograph: Dorothea Tuch

Mitch Speed is a writer based in Berlin, Germany.

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