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Read the transcript of this interview.
Jérôme Bel is an experimental choreographer with a reputation for being controversial. The Paris-based artist provokes his audiences with witty, cerebral presentations that often break down the traditional barrier between performer and audience, and that pose questions about virtuosity and the nature of dance.
Born in the south of France, Bel studied at the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine in Angers. From 1985 to 1991, he worked as a dancer in France and Italy, performing for choreographers such as Angelin Preljocaj, Joëlle Bouvier, Régis Obadia, Daniel Larrieu and Caterina Sagna. In 1992, after assisting Philippe De couflé with the direction of the opening ceremony for the XVIth Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, Bel began to prepare himself to work as a choreographer by reading philosophy and dance history.
Bel's first choreographic work was nom donné par l'auteur (1994). Other works include the self-titled Jérôme Bel (1995), which contains onstage nudity and urination, and Véronique Doisneau (2004), created for the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet.
His 90-minute The show must go on (2001) premiered to a wildly mixed reception in Paris at the Théâtre de la Ville, with some audience members singing along to the catchy tunes that comprise the score (which includes David Bowie, Edith Piaf, Queen and Paul Simon) and others walking out and demanding a refund. Typical of his minimalist work, it contains long moments where little happens and focuses on the ordinary rather than the virtuosic.
When The show must go on was presented in New York in 2005, it earned Bel a Bessie (a New York Dance and Performance Award) in the Choreographer/Creator category.
Siegmund, Gerald. “In the Realm of Signs: Jérôme Bel”. ballett international/tanz aktuell. April 1998: 34-37.