Best known for his collaborations with Akram Kahn and Alain Platel’s Ballets C de la B, choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s UK premiere Apocrifu is a stunning piece of dance theatre. Object work, puppetry, a Corsican polyphonic choir and dazzling physical transformations combine to dazzling effect.
The title comes from the word apocryphal, reflecting Cherkaoui’s interest in sacred writing that has been banned or excluded. Books are a recurrent motif, thudding to the ground, scattered in piles, escaping upwards like balloons and bringing their dancers with them. A beautiful set piece involves the three performers merging into one, each reading a different sacred text, heads, books, bodies interweaving.
The seven strong Corsican choir, mostly above the stage, amplifies the piece’s interest in religion with its pure, polyphonic soundtrack throughout. No mere bystanders, though, they are sometimes threatening or hostile presences, their performance as important as the dancers’.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Dimitri Jourde and Yasuyuki Shuto have bodies apparently made of rubber. They distort and shape-shift in extraordinary ways, heads bobbing about as if disembodied, magnetized to one another, two dancers becoming strange four limbed single beings. Their movement work is quite breathtaking. The puppetry too is highly innovative. If at times the piece’s themes, its interest in cultural dialogue and mobile identities, are lost in the virtuosic display of choreography, this is a small criticism for a work of ingenuity, physical prowess and visual humour.