Out of Context – for Pina

Alain Platel

les ballets C de la B

Première on January 13th 2010 in Kaaitheater, Brussels (BE)

The creation

In Out Of Context – for Pina, director Alain Platel continues his search for a language of movement connected to the unconscious, the arbitrary, the uncontrolled. The movement material covers the entire range of dyskinesia and dystonia, in other words: spasms, convulsions, tics. These can be very small mouth movements, teeth chattering, sticking out the tongue, eyes blinking, frowning, grimacing, moving the fingers as though they are playing the piano, briefly jerking the limbs, torso, pelvis or head, jolting the abdomen or diaphragm, balance impairment, falling over and a whole repertoire of silly walks. Small tics swiftly alternate with big swings. Restlessly and nervously. Platel has long resisted the label ‘choreographer’, but still arrives at this term in another way. ‘Chorea’ is a medical term referring to an affected nervous system, the symptoms of which are jerky movements and poor coordination.
Platel uses virtuoso dancers for this. He isn’t so much interested in the unconscious as such, as he is in the tension between the wide range of uncontrolled movements and the traditional building blocks of choreography, such as the synchronised (simultaneous) execution of movements. In that ‘entre-deux’, the area of tension between the unconscious and the superconscious, a space opens up that is not just interesting to the director, but also and particularly to the dancers he has been working with for quite some time now.

It seems as though, as years go by, Platel increasingly permeates the essence of humanity.  In the past, he used an eclectic cast to highlight social and cultural differences in a mix of high and low culture (both Bach and Prince). He went through these outer layers to then get under the skin. This happened in vsprs (2006) and consistently continued in pitié!(2008), both in cooperation with composer Fabrizio Cassol (and equally in Nine Finger (2007) with Benjamin Verdonck and Fumiyo Ikeda). Even his earlier work already carried the seeds of this approach. For example, the movement material in La Tristeza Complice (1995) was based on Tourette syndrome, a complex of verbal and physical tics.
Ultimately, Platel goes back to his past as a special needs educator working with children with motor and multiple disabilities at Medisch Pedagogisch Instituut in Landegem. It was there that he discovered the beauty of the malformed, the emotional power of the misshapen.

© Chris Van der Burght

Even though it is possible to draw lines of continuity in the language of movement, the title Out of Contextalso evokes the expectation of something ‘different’. What is different? The title Out of Context- for Pina was initially chosen because it isn’t based on a previously determined piece of music, as was the case with vsprs, which was based on Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro de la Beata Vergine, or pitié!, which was an adaptation of Bach’s Matthew Passion.
The music for Out of Context- for Pina has become the driftwood of a few centuries, washed ashore as the remains of human civilisation. The human voice is at the centre in an attempt of (re)construction and communication. The microphone is its extension. Every now and then, we only get as far as a murmur, a hum, a roar.

In vsprs, an equivalent to religious ecstasy was found in physical ecstasy, culminating in the jerky choreography to the ‘Magnificat’ from the Vespers of Mary. pitié!was about suffering and the (im)possibility to share it with others. The question occupying the Out of Context- for Pina team was whether movement material that is so intrinsically linked to ‘pain’, ‘ailment’ and ‘lack’ can be used for anything else. A documentary on pianist Glenn Gould prompted the team in a more joyous direction.

© Chris Van der Burght

Out of Context – for Pina is situated in a mental space. It gradually became a trip down memory lane. A dive into the caverns of human existence in search of the roots of childhood and prehistory. Of something in between man and animal, a kind of harmony that passes by (or precedes) the duality of beauty and ugliness, good and evil, me and you, individual and community. In search of a condition in which everything becomes liquid. In that sense, Out of Context- for Pina becomes a kind of ritual, a gathering of people in search of an essence they can’t find, but in the meantime experiencing something unexpected but worthwhile.

Hildegard De Vuyst, Dramaturge
January 2010

Alain Platel

© Chris Van der Burght

Alain Platel is trained as a remedial educationalist, and is an autodidact director. In 1984 he set up a small group with a number of friends and relatives to work collectively. Emma (1988) signalled his concentration on directing. He was responsible for Bonjour Madame (1993), La Tristeza Complice (1995) and Iets op Bach(1998), with which les ballets C de la B (as the group was now called) rocketed to the international top. In the meantime his collaboration with Arne Sierens had a similar effect on the Ghent youth theatre company Victoria, with the three plays Moeder en Kind (1995), Bernadetje (1996) and Allemaal Indiaan (1999).

After Allemaal Indiaan he announced that he was stopping making productions. But shortly afterwards Gerard Mortier persuaded him to do Wolf (2003) based on Mozart for the Ruhrtriennale. The choir project for the opening of the new KVS marked the start of close collaboration with the composer Fabrizio Cassol. vsprs(2006) proved to be a turning point in his career. So far his work had been exuberant in both the diversity of performers and the themes, but now it became more profound and intense and revealed a world of passion and desire. And violence, as in Nine Finger (2007) with Benjamin Verdonck and Fumiyo Ikeda.

After the baroque pitié! (2008), Out Of Contextfor Pina (January 2010) is an almost ascetic reflection of the movement repertoire of spasms and tics. Platel consistently continues to search this language of movement for incarnations of feelings that are too vast. The yearning for something transcending the individual is becoming more and more palpable.
In collaboration with director Frank Van Laecke, he created Gardenia (June 2010), a production in which the closing of a transvestite cabaret affords us a glimpse into the private lives of a memorable group of old artists.In 2015 Alain Platel and Frank Van Laecke renew their collaboration, this time joined by composer Steven Prengels, for En avant, marche ! a performance about a society inspired by the tradition of fanfare orchestras and brass bands.

C(H)ŒURS (2012), so far Platel’s biggest project, is created on demand of opera director Gerard Mortier. He got to work with the famous choral scenes from Verdi’s operas, later on he added pieces of music from Richard Wagner’s works. In C(H)ŒURS he examines –together with his dancers and the Teatro Real choir – how ‘dangerously beautiful’ a group can be. The political connotation in performances such as tauberbach (2014) and Coup Fatal (in collaboration with Fabrizio Cassol 2014) lies in the joie de vivre and energy that is displayed on stage to show how people sometimes live or even survive in undignified circumstances (a landfill in tauberbach and the real living conditions of the musicians from Congo in Coup Fatal). “Lust for life” as a way of rebellion.

But let it be clear, Platel is not just into large scale projects nowadays. In the recent past, he worked on small projects such as Nachtschade (for Victoria in 2006) and coaching work for amongst others Pieter and Jakob Ampe and their production Jake & Pete’s big reconciliation attempt for the disputes form the past (in 2011). Two projects which have had a significant influence on his way of perceiving theatre.
He also almost surreptitiously entered the arena of the dance film together with the British director Sophie Fiennes (Because I Sing in 2001, Ramallah!Ramallah!Ramallah! in 2005 and VSPRS Show and Tell in 2007) and solo with de balletten en ci en là (2006), an impressive view of what goes on in a twenty-year-old dance company, taking us all the way to Vietnam and Burkina Faso, but also and mainly being an ode to his home town Ghent.


concept & direction
Alain Platel

danced & created by
Elie Tass, Emile Josse / Quan Bui Ngoc, Hyo Seung Ye, Kaori Ito, Mathieu Desseigne Ravel, Mélanie Lomoff, Romeu Runa, Rosalba Torres Guerrero, Ross McCormack

Hildegard De Vuyst

artistic assistant
Sara Vanderieck

light design
Carlo Bourguignon

sound design & electronic music
Sam Serruys / Bartold Uyttersprot

costume design
Dorine Demuynck

sound engineer
Bartold Uyttersprot

Chris Van der Burght

production management
Fien Ysebie / Valerie Desmet

tour management
Sara Vanderieck / Valerie Desmet

les ballets C de la B

Théâtre de la Ville (Paris), Le Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, TorinoDanza, Sadler’s Wells (London), Stadsschouwburg Groningenn, Tanzkongress 2009/ Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Kaaitheater (Brussels), Wiener Festwochen

with thanks to
Timur Magomedgadzjeyev, Farah Saleh, Quan Bui Ngoc, Juliana Neves, Fabrizio Cassol, Isnel Da Silveira, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Toneelgroep Ceremonia

with the support of
The Flemish authorities, City of Ghent, Province East Flanders


you can find out past, present and future performances of Out of Context – for Pina here

les ballets C de la B
Bijlokesite, Bijlokekaai 1, B – 9000 Gent
Tel. + 32 9 221 75 01