Dance Review






Sadler's Wells Theatre & the Lilian Baylis Studio

A Spectator

by and with Jerome Bel


Lillian Baylis Studio


12 – 14 February, 2009





A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!


By turns funny, charming, serious and thought-provoking, an hour or so spent in the company of Jerome Bel as ‘performer’ and we as ‘spectator’ is an enriching experience for anyone interested in what it might indeed mean to be a spectator and how choreographers work with this notion in multitudinous creative ways.
Listening to him talk and occasionally illustrate his point with a movement, or little demonstration … the four dancers moved to the front of the stage… so …providesmuch food for thought, and opens a little window into the intelligence and insight of this French choreographer who has considerable standing in the world of contemporary dance.

As he gives us the benefit of the 20 years or so that he himself has spent as a spectator in the theatre, we see dance reframed. Not only does he not dance in this performance, although one senses that he has trouble keeping this in check, but dance is also discussed from an entirely new perspective; that of the spectator.

What is it to be a good spectator? What expectations does one bring to the experience of sitting in a theatre? What can we learn as spectators? Can spectators join the community of dancers in performance? Is there always a line between spectator and audience? Jerome explores these questions through very entertaining personal examples in a roughly four-part discussion.

We hear how a demonstration occurred outside a theatre where there was no end to the particular performance. ‘We have a right to clap!’ said the demonstrators, and to be able to clap we need to have a recognisable end of some sort. And a dance performed for 10 to 18 month old babies where dancers imitate what the babies do, to mutual delight. We learn how beautiful ballerinas throwing litter out of open flower baskets convinced Jerome never to litter the streets again. What a striking visual image was conjured up through his description of how in a street carnival in Rio, as dancers shed their costumes in the heat and spectators pick them up and put them on, the distinction between performer and spectator grows ever more beautifully blurred.

Although they seems haphazard, Jerome has obviously carefully chosen his examples, so that whether one considers oneself to be a dance aficionado or a relative ‘dance-illiterate’, one is brought closer to the extraordinarily articulate world of dance. An invitation to post one’s own experiences as a spectator on his website, ‘a new little project maybe …!’ brings a stimulating end to a remarkable evening.


Thursday 12 to Saturday 14th February 2009
Performances at 8.00pm

Tickets: £12
Ticket Office: 0844 412 4300 or

Sadler’s Wells/Lilian Baylis Studio
Rosebery Avenue
London EC1R 4TN







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