Alain Platel – body:language Talks


As you know (because this detail is always pointed out and I'll do it here once again), les ballets C de la B's Alain Platel used to work as a child psychologist, before becoming a theatre director/choreographer. In the third of three body:language Talks taking place at Lilian Baylis Studio, he and Guy Cools talked about his fascination with the physicality of mental illness, showing vintage film clips from an old psychiatric hospital, clips which Platel used in the development of one of his latest works, Out of Context.

The great thing about meeting and listening to a choreographer whose work you love, is – like meeting the chef that cooked you that 'utterly exquisite meal' (not that I've ever asked for that, but people do… in films) – that you get to meet the person behind the Creation. You want to know how (s)he looks, behaves, talks and erm thinks. You wish to get inside them (not in that way… perv), to know what inspires them, because they've managed to inspire you.

Good thing Alain Platel was prepared to reveal all that, plus a little more; as the talk progressed, Platel several times gave little hints of his spiritual views – followed by an apologetic 'it might seem strange to say' – for example stating that mental patients 'are one step ahead of us', and their way of being 'is a poetic way of life'. I'd be happy for Platel to be my shrink (I need a shrink?). He doesn't think of mental patients as being ill, but rather sees something different. He sees some sort of freedom or something close to it at least. 'What happens when the body takes over?', he asked leaving the question hanging in the air. It interested me this question, yes, what does happen? When the mind isn't in control what happens? And what is it one step closer to? A potential answer to those questions is perhaps commonness. Platel talked of commonness between his dancers, between the dancers on stage and the audience in their seats, between all. And he is definitely onto something there: I remember sitting through Out of Context drenched in a sense of unity with and compassion for the dancers on stage, in a way I never felt before as an audience member.

Talking about feelings, Platel explained his interest in emotions, particularly the ones originating in our current psychological and social state. Rather than draw upon a language that belongs to the past, a language that has lost its translational power I suppose, Platel is on a mission to portray feelings through a contemporary bodily language.


Alain Platel – body:language Talks, 17 January 2011, Lilian Baylis Studio