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Those fortunate enough to see the incomparable style of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in Foi (2003) will not want to miss out on Myth, an exuberant, multi-layered and touching work created for Toneelhuis in Antwerp, Belgium. Myth can be seen as a rite of passage, a race against the shadows for 14 actor-dancers, accompanied on stage by 7 musicians from the Micrologus Ensemble. With a monumental set (library/waiting room), multiple vanishing points, Italian and Arab-Andalusian chant from the 12th century, Myth juggles styles and symbols, eras and landmarks, to tear down the walls separating nationalities and religions. A work of great passion by one of Europe’s most sought-after choreographers.


“A work of extraordinary virtuosity and inventiveness,” according to Le Quotidien Flamand, Myth asks the following question: How do we deal with our shadows, those dark areas of ourselves which, although invisible, paradoxically reveal who we are in daylight. The work features 14 remarkable artists – dancers, acrobats, actors – along with the singers and musicians. The ingenious set design allows the environment to change with each narrative sequence, whether they be in succession or juxtaposed. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui describes the site as “a waiting room with a large door; we don’t whether the people will be sent to heaven or hell, to a doctor or to a meeting with a God, or whether they will be sent back to earth.”

“The set is like a large library, a sanctuary… The Micrologus Ensemble sing Jewish, Vedic and Egyptian-Maghebri chant, which casts its spell on the
 audience. The black-garbed dancers slide, slither, metamorphose
with great speed and delicacy. The result is stunningly beautiful.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is a great artist.” (Figaro.com,Paris)

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Given Cherkaoui’s diverse background and openness to new forms of representation, his work is extremely personal, theatrical, eclectic. A dancer-choreographer born in Antwerp to a Belgian mother and Moroccan father, Cherkaoui was initially a dancer in variety shows and television programs in Belgium. He then studied at P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, the contemporary dance school directed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. In 1995 he won first prize for the Best Belgian Dance Solo, in a competition launched in Ghent by Alain Platel, the founder of Les Ballets C. de la B. Platel then invited him to take part in Iets op Bach (1997-1998), a dance-theatre piece that went on to tour the world.

He next choreographed “a contemporary musical” set to the music of Jacques Brel, as well as Anonymous Society (1999) in collaboration with Andrew Wale and Perrin Manzer Allen (musical director). But it was Rien de rien (2000), his first choreography as a member of Les Ballets C. de la B., that established his name worldwide. Epitomizing the world of Cherkaoui, it involves religious questioning, an intermingling of references and symbols, live music and a predilection for mediaeval chant. Rien de rien toured Europe in 2000 and won the Special Prize at the Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF) the following year.

In 2002, Cherkaoui and Nienke Reehorst led a workshop for mentally handicapped actors at the Theater Stap in Turnhout, which led to the production Ook. Since then, many of his creations, including Myth, have included these artists who, in the choreographer’s words, are “otherwise able-bodied.”

In July 2002, he took part in the “Vif du Sujet” at the Festival d’Avignon with his solo it (2002), directed by Wim Vandekeybus, with whom he worked closely on the choreography. In September of the same year, he co-directed with Damien Jalet, Luc Dunberry and Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola the choreography for D'avant for the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin. Cherkaoui’s next choreography for Les Ballets C. de la B., Foi, was presented at Danse Danse in 2003.

In 2004, at the request of the Festival d’Avignon, he choreographed and directed Tempus fugit for Les Ballets C de la B, as well as In Memoriam for the Ballets de Monte-Carlo.

In 2005, with such prominent collaborators as dancer Akram Khan, composer Nitin Sawhney and sculptor Antony Gormley, he created and performed in the duet zero degrees (2005), which was a worldwide success. In July of that year, he created Ik hou van jou / je t’aime tu sais with Damien Jalet for a special edition of Bal Moderne staged in the open air in twelve European cities simultaneously. That same year, he created Loin, a work for the twenty-two dancers of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève.

In 2006, he joined Toneelhuis in Antwerp as artist-in-residence. He created Corpus Bach, a duet in which he and dancer Nicolas Vladyslav explored the theatrical effect of Bach’s cello suites. The spring of 2006 took Larbi back to Monte Carlo, where he choreographed a new piece for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Mea Culpa. A few months later, End premiered at the Gothenburg Dance and Theatre Festival, a work he created during the fighting between Israel and Hezbolah in Lebanon which clearly left its mark on the piece.  

In May 2007, audiences at the new opera house in Copenhagen were in raptures over L’homme de bois, Larbi’s new creation for eighteen dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet to music by Stravinsky. Next came Myth for the Toneelhuis in Antwerp, followed by Apocryphe, a trio commissioned by the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels. Finally, the prolific choreographer presented  Origine, a piece for four dancers that premiered at the De Bijloke Theatre in Ghent in January 2008. 

Among his other activities, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was invited in 2007 to curate the inaugural December Dance Festival in Bruges, organized by the Concertgebouw, Cultuurcentrum Brugge and Brugge Plus. His duties involved introducing the works—choreographies and installations—and choosing works by artists he admires. Among these was Louise Lecavalier, who performed the solo I is Memory, choreographed by Benoît Lachambre and presented at Danse Danse in February 2007.

Ensemble Micrologus

The Micrologus Ensemble is an Italian group specializing in vocal and instrumental mediaeval music, both religious and secular pieces from the 12th to 16th centuries. Founded in 1984, the ensemble directed by Patrizia Bovi is recognized internationally for its research, concerts and conferences. Many of its recordings have won prestigious awards, including two Diapasons d’or from the French magazine Diapason. In addition, it composed the soundtrack for the film Mediterraneo, which won an Academy Award in 1991.


The Toneelhuis in Antwerp, the largest municipal Flemish theatre company, has been directed by Guy Cassiers since 2006. While artistic director of the ro theater in Rotterdam (Holland) from 1998 to 2006, Cassiers directed Rouge décanté, a play based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Jeroen Brouwer. The piece was performed at the Festival TransAmériques in 2007.

As artistic director in Antwerp, Cassier decided to replace the traditional model—a large ensemble of actors orbiting around one or more directors—with a new approach. He thus invited six artists to work with him at Toneelhuis: Benjamin Verdonck, Wayn Traub, Lotte van den Berg, Olympique Dramatique, De Filmfabriek and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Each of these creators works independently, both for their own artistic fulfillment and that of the company. All belong to a new generation of artists, who are breathing new life into the venerable institution. In upcoming seasons, they will work under one roof, creating a wide variety of productions for diverse audiences.

Duration: 110 minutes


Directed by:
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Musical direction:
Patrizia Bovi
Assistance choreography:
Nienke Reehorst
Dramaturg :
Guy Cools
Iris Bouche, Ann Dockx, Damien Fournier, Alexandra Gilbert, Milan Herich, Damien Jalet, Peter Jasko, Satoshi Kudo, Christine Leboutte, Laura Neyskens, James O’Hara, Ulrika Kinn Svensson, Marc Wagemans, Darryl E. Wood
Live musicians (Ensemble Micrologus):
Mauro Borgioni (voice, percussion), Patrizia Bovi (voice, hare, tromba), Goffredo Degli Esposti (double flute, reed pipe, bagpipes, flutvièle, nay), Gabriele Miracle (percussion, psaltérion), Gabriele Russo (vièle, rebec, tromba, reed pipe), Simone Sorini (voice, lute), Leah Stuttard (harp, cymbals)

Wim Van de Capppelle, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Technical assistance:
Serge Vandenhove
Costumes design:
Isabelle Lhoas, Frederick Denis
Light desin:
Luc Schaltin
Technical crew:
Sanne Roels, Mark Van Denesse, Lucas Van Haesbroeck, Vanessa Court
Production and tour manager:
Mien Muys
Elisabeth Kinn Svensson
Promotion and diffusion:
Frans Brood Productions (www.fransbrood.com)
Text advice:
Erwin Jans, Joel Kerouanton, An-Marie Lambrechts
Toneelhuis Antwerpen (B)
eSingel Antwerpen (B), Théâtre de la Ville, Paris (FR), Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg (L), Sadler’s Wells London (GB), Fondazione Musica per Roma (I), Theater Im Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen (D), Concertgebouw Brugge (B), National Art Center Ottawa (CA)
Thanks to :
Toneelhuis and deSingel teams, Theater Stap, Rosas, NTGent, Gilles Delmas, Lise Uytterhoeven, Lou Cope, Krystel Khoury, Griet Van Laer, Jung, Catherine Mobihan

Photos: Koen Broos

March 2008