The 52nd HK Arts Festival .Feature

A Contemporary Spirit Named Jérôme Bel

Text / Enoch Cheng

Choreographer Jérôme Bel, a renowned figure in contemporary theatre, presents his life story at the 52nd Hong Kong Arts Festival.

The provocative days

Since he emerged in the 1990s, Bel's creations have always surprised international audiences. His early works were particularly provocative: for example, one performance involved naked dancers shedding their physical constraints and urinating on stage. And another saw performers put on numerous T-shirts and dancing to the taglines printed on each of them. These works deconstructed the very meanings of performance and theatre, and essentially critiqued the consumerist nature of society.

The beauty of imperfection

In the theatre, Bel uses imperfect bodies and non-conventional styles of dance to challenge the definition of beauty. When his work The Show Must Go On toured to Hong Kong in 2003, and performers in everyday clothes danced according to the titles of pop songs, such as shaking their bellies or breasts, or even looked directly into the audience, some conventional dance viewers could barely stand it.

Liberation through dance

Fundamentally, Bel has always scrutinised various stereotypes and used art, the most liberal medium, to examine the way we live. For example, in Disabled Theatre, Bel collaborated with a famous Swiss theatre ensemble formed by practitioners who are mentally disabled. Each performer prepared an individual song and dance, as if going through a live audition, and audience members were left to question their own morals after serving as spectators of the marginalised, which somehow mirrored reality. And then in Gala, Bel put amateurs on stage presenting their own creations and passing on their choreography to each other. Here, dance no longer represented a standard of perfection but ultimately a form of genuine self-expression that could be shared.

Be creative with our time

Today, to help combat climate change, Bel and his company do not tour on planes to limit carbon emissions, but he still finds outlets for his creativity. In the work Jérôme Bel coming to Hong Kong, he reflects on his three-decade career and 50 years of life, and asks local artists to complete the performance on his behalf. Let's see how our team takes on this conceptual challenge as the performance's premiere in the Chinese-speaking world!

Editor's note: The writer is the director and translator of Jérôme Bel in Hong Kong.

Jérôme Bel

Date: 14-16 Mar,2024

Venue: Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Details: https://www.hk.artsfestival.org/en/programme/J%C3%A9r%C3%B4me_Bel?