As we melt down, then rebuild: Cherkaoui’s ‘Babel(Words)’

Architecture & Design · Dance


In this arresting moment from “Babel(Words)” created in 2010 in Brussels and now on view at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, co-choreographers Sidi Lardi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet bring their gang of gypsies through a ballet of physical violence that culminates in a gruesome frieze.

It’s a vision that should terrify us, were it not for the frightening universe we all inhabit. It inspires Larbi’s engaging pageant. It feels all too familiar.

This very well-performed work set to spoken word, ballistic drumming and chanting, and amusing role-play also shows dancers constructing cities (that would be the Tower of Babel), with clever manipulation of visual artist Antony Gormley’s moveable metal structures. That’s a more hopeful vision. I liked that Babel(words) is my first dance work to cast a cleaning lady, albeit one with an operatic voice. It also includes the first dance evocation of checking in at the airport. I’ve been griping that dance needs to better reflect our society — and with words and without them, Babel(words) just shut me up!


Babel(words) | Lincoln Center White Light Festival | Oct 26-27

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